A larger vision
A larger vision
How fortunate we are: we live in a beautiful area and within easy reach are other areas each just as beautiful in its own way. This happy thought struck me anew when, on a sunny morning towards the end of August, we set out through the smiling limestone landscape around Settle, paused for a picnic in the secret valley of Barbondale, had a quick drink in a pub looking out over the shining sands of the Kent estuary and finally arrived at our destination in the Lythe valley. A year ago, our nephew and his partner bought a small stone house and some adjoining land there and are busy developing both house and land.
We had glimpsed their land through sheets of rain last October: a small paddock and some rain-sodden fields stretching up the hillside. Now we got the full tour – and what a transformation! The paddock has been planted with damson and apple trees and is in the first phase of developing into a wild flower meadow. On the advice from Cumbria Wildlife, they have mown the grass several times; next year a crop of yellow rattle will be sown; semi-parasitic, it will weaken the lush grasses, then the wildflower mix will have a chance to flourish.
After advice from RSPB and the Forestry Commission, the hillside has been planted with 6,500 trees – a sizeable wood in the making. 75% are to be coppiced: alder, hazel and birch; the rest’s a wonderful mix of rowan, crab-apple and hawthorn (wild fruit for birds) and, every thirty feet or so, an oak. You have to be patient with meadows: you need to have real vision to create woods. We walked along mown pathways (a day course on scything run by the local Wildlife Trust) and I imagined the sequence. The plantation with its tussocky grass will already attract invertebrates and small rodents and they in turn would bring in the predators – owls and kestrels, for sure. A few years more, and the coppiced woodland with its dappled shade should be alive with wild flowers and birdsong in Spring and busy with fruit-eating birds and mammals in Autumn. Eventually – the perfect habit would evolve – the British oak wood. Equally important in conservation terms, it’s not alone – other woods lie to north and south and between them wildlife corridors -thick hedges of hazel, hawthorn and blackthorn creating a mosaic of wildlife-friendly areas. The larger vision!