Monday, June 22, 2020

Involuntary wilding at La Chaise

Thea wildness is coming back to La Chaise!     As the Clun Forest sheep gradually leave us, so the wild plants sneak back and probably small wild life also.  There are small strange holes in the meadows. Butterflies abound but stay safely near the rampaging juniper bushes, now a dense hedge.

Off the top of my head I cannot identify this orchid - but it is trying to get through the fence!*

The ram , Boris, and and his flock of women have been taken to the high Pyrenees there to breed and prosper again.  A young ram lamb with  four one year old ewes has gone to work as lawn mowers in a local garden.   The rest, well they will be with us...

Doubtless other orchids are also exploring the space, especially in places where the sheep no longer tread. Among the early ones will be the 'early purple' obviously.   It was almost abundant under what is probably La Chaise' only ash tree, so prolific that at first I thought it was pink clover.  But then the sheep decided that the shade of an ash was good for their health.. and plonked themselves down to burp. A few hardy plants still show their heads.

This could be a scented orchid - but I could not get my head into the juniper to find out

There seems to be a curious relationship between juniper bushes, ant-hills and the various types of orchid.    I don't know whether this is unique to the soil of La Chaise or whether it is normal for the species.   What I have noticed is that as the junipers die - they are quite short lived for a wild plant - so the orchids disappear,  in the past with no little help from grazing sheep.

But recently, now the young junipers rampage alongside the fence  of the former horse fields  (where they are unlikely to get mowed or eaten) the odd orchid is poking its head through the spiky branches..

An Early Purple perhaps?

As well as the orchids the more ordinary wild flowers are gradually returning, buttercups, daisies, various forms of vetch and clover, oh, and dandelions!  We hope to see wild sage again.  Wild herbs are also slowly returning - the most conspicuous is the ground covering thyme..some of which I hope to replant near the main house.

Thyme creeping across the grass

Animal wild life has been a little slower to show itself or make itself heard. But recently we had  two kingfishers who seemed to be settled in the Black Pond in the Woods.   I hesitate to say 'a pair' or 'a couple' because they might be individuals.   (Note to self:  check up on the nature of Kingfishers.)  All I know is that they are very shy and consequently seem very rare.

Audrey, who studied them with camera over many weeks, insists they are couple which has made a nest. She expects the eggs to hatch very soon.

Recently they seem to do daily flights between the Black Pond and the Pump Lake at the bottom of the valley.   Both lakes are fully of noisy frog life, perhaps even midwife toads.   And where there are frogs - there you will find the great grey heron on its stilt like legs. Yes, I did.

Will I miss the sheep, yes - 

* possibly an epipactis of some sort