Sunday, 16 September 2012


Now that I work part time, I can enjoy the school holidays with my family, but it's hard coming back to work after a long summer away.

My first day back at work revolved around a long staff meeting, but I did get to patrol the Reserve and see that it looked just the way I left it. The rangers have been cutting grass, making hay and harvesting crops as part of the ruthless round of the seasons that never lets up. The new roof was put on the Hayden Hide too, so I'm looking for a good downpour to test it out.

This is a quiet time for birds, but there should be plenty of insects about. The most popular activity this month seems to be blackberry picking and there are loads of them out there. They attract birds and insects too; just choose a bramble bush with a sunny aspect and watch for a while. I met a couple of photographers who were firing away with delight, right by the car park. The warming sun on the brambles had brought out crickets, bush crickets, shield bugs, and a comma butterfly, as well as several dragonflies.

By Wednesday my ability to cope was already under stress. I turned up earlier than usual and met my wife on site as the first volunteers for the day started to arrive. I was ready; I was prepared; only I didn't have all my keys. We had to wait for Christina, the Voluntary Warden, to let us in then I found that I was locked out of my office and the tool store. And, guess what! I didn't have the keys.

This would have been embarrassing at any time, but with my wife there it was doubly so; and now I would have to call Kirsty the Ranger for help from HQ.

Removing crown vetch.
Kirsty let us in and then gave my wife a lift home on her way back to the office. The volunteers didn't complain; not to me anyway, and we got started on clearing invasive plants and removing fallen branches from the paths.  Normality was restored for a coupler of hours.

Before the chaos started, our plan was for me to drop Hanna at home, but because she got a lift, she had no keys either. So when Kirsty drove off, Hanna found she was locked out at home! Kirsty is pretty skinny so she might have got into the house through a partially open window, but she was already gone. Hanna took about half an hour to gain entry because she did the washing-up through the kitchen window before climbing in over the sink.

Of course the keys were in my car the whole time, where I had put them six weeks earlier. I'm so ashamed!

On Wednesday afternoon, Matt Johnson and I moved 20 cattle from one field to another, without any mishap, except that one of the heifers fell in love with a highland bull on the way and was desperate to elope with him for a good life, north of the border at Pumphouse Pit. Overnight she was so lovesick that she jumped the fence to be with the Big-yun only to find that he wasn't that bothered. Spurned and heartbroken, she set off to the west, hoping to find another bull along the A1. Matt caught up with her on Thursday morning at Boughton Lodge Farm and we decided to send her back to her owner. Meanwhile, Matt had a call to say some of his sheep were on the railway line north of Huntingdon, so off he went too.

With things going so well, we decided to move the 9 heifers from near Island Pit to the meadow by the Visitors' Centre. This meant separating them from the 11 bullocks, which sounds easy but could have taken all week-end. With the help of Davy Jones it was surprisingly easy to get all of the cattle into the pen, but getting the bullocks out without losing any heifers or getting a playful kick in the head was more tricky and we lost two.

All on his own, Davy managed to cut out one of the remaining heiffers from the herd and gently coax her all the way across the field and into the pen, but we failed to catch the last one who now has all the boys to herself. It will be hard to get her to come away.

So, there are 8 cattle in the meadow now, and one to come.

And what did I do with all that time away? You can find out at Blogspot.

P.S. We did catch the final heifer and she is in the meadow with the others now.