As any gardener knows, Autumn is the time of year when you start tidying the garden for Winter. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t do this on the nature trail as it’s not a garden, but it’s a bit of a balancing act due to its size. On a much larger scale, it would be great to let an area rewild itself but our site is too small for this, and we’re trying to establish different habitats, so we need to carry out a degree of management.

One of the areas which has required the most work is the Cornfield; this was one of the parts of the trail that I was most excited about at the beginning of the year, I was convinced that it would look spectacular in the Summer, but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Nevertheless, it is still one of the most important areas on the trail as wildflower meadows are becoming increasingly rare due to modern farming techniques.  I think the reason it didn’t wow me as much as I hoped was that I sowed too much seed, and some, more vigorous species, took over. Plants like Birdsfoot Trefoil (Which is the foodplant for the Common Blue Butterfly) very much dominated the Cornfield. I have strimmed it all back, scarified it and sown new seed - this time I have gone for a pure wildflower mix, without grass, and used a little less, so fingers crossed for next year. 

Next door, the pasture meadow has needed less attention, I strimmed it back in September and it will be left to grow back. If I didn’t strim it, the odd tree would appear, in time these would become denser and eventually we would end up with a woodland area.

It has been exciting to see a lot of the wildflowers that I planted last year flourishing; over the Summer they had disappeared into the undergrowth. Having planted over 1000 of them by hand last Winter, it was reassuring to know that my efforts hadn’t gone to waste. What’s more, next year they will be even better having had the time to bulk up and grow over Winter and become more established. 

Some areas have been left to their own devices, one of these is the riverbank, I’ve left it for now to maintain the integrity of the bank but I’ll strim it back in the Spring. Interestingly I am starting to see a lot of fungi here which is great as they are so important in the health and function of soils. If any of you are interested in the ecology of fungi, I would definitely recommend a book called ‘Entangled Life’ by Merlin Sheldrake. It will change the way you think about many things. 

It’s been a fascinating year at Poppy’s Farm, I have loved watching everything grow and seeing what plants thrived, and which were more of a shrinking violet, and I’m looking forward to next year when, different plants will dominate, and new wildlife will appear. Thank you to everyone who has visited throughout the year, I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have.

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