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WildSherston in review

26 May

The weekend of WildSherston went with a flutter, flap, a squeak and slither (and no bangs…) due to the bats, moths, owls and snails. The children made quite a lot of noise as well!!

The weather was superb with lots of display stands outside as well as in the large marquee. We were fortunate to have a number of really good speakers including Kelvin Boot on Friday night with his stories being a well-travelled naturalist. On Saturday there were 6 speakers on a whole variety of subjects from Wild Flowers to Birds and Rivers. The two stalls most in demand were the snail racing (which brought out the competitive spirit in many people albeit in slow motion) and the bats. It was a rare chance to see bats close up and many of the children were fascinated… the adults couldn’t get close..

On Friday night a series of moth traps were put out around the village and some very large moths were caught which were a bit scary. About 50 different species were found.

The Sherston mums did a fantastic job of setting up and running a whole series of activities for children including clay models, nature walks and a special thanks to Carron Watehouse for managing this.

Sunday dawned at 4.15am with a hardy bunch out and about for the Dawn Chorus and then a bird ringing exhibition, with breakfast, at the Vineyard. A series of fascinating walks followed looking at different aspects of nature including the river, birds, wild flowers and butterflies.

I suspect some people felt it was worth going just for the fantastic food alone, provided by “The Awkward Squad”.

Many thanks to lots of people and organizations who really made this a fantastic experience and to the main organisers Martin Rea, Jo Egerton, Pete Bishop, Carron Watehouse.

And of course the brain behind the idea, and general management of the event our thanks go to Geoff Carss.

Sherston Craft Club did a fantastic job with the legacy banner, and it was clear that the children loved getting stuck in.

Thank you to Sherston Church and Sue Robinson for organising the children’s and pets service on Sunday morning. The “Living Churchyard” proved to be somewhere a bit different to discover nature and wildlife.The Living Churchyards and Cemeteries Project (LCCP) was set up nationally in the 1990s with the aim of promoting churchyards and cemeteries as a valuable source of biodiversity.

We received funding from the Parish Council, Wiltshire County Council , MVCAP and support from N3 Graphic Displays (Nick Holland), The Post Office, Wentworth Jigsaws, Highgrove, Bugs Eye View, Whatley Manor, The Ship at Luckington, Sonardyne, Jeremy Nabarro and Carole Conyngham.

People clearly enjoyed themselves with some fantastic feedback including from Miranda Krestovnikov (presenter of BBC’s Coast programme and President of RSPB) who stayed for 5 hours and insisted she is invited again and will bring more people. The BBC, who broadcast the BBC Wiltshire Radio programme ‘Wild about Wiltshire” live from the event on Sunday mentioned it was the best ever live broadcast they have ever done and interviewed lots of people over the 2 hour programme.

The overall intention was to get more people, adults and children, interested in their environment and from the feedback it certainly achieved that aim.

We also had some great coverage in local newspapers:

and there are some great photo’s on our facebook site:


Not bad for an Octogenarian…

27 May

June article for the Cliffhanger.

The national treasure that is Sir David Attenborough has been very busy of late. Not only has he been ‘tweeting’ every day on Radio 4 (tweet of the day) with one bird being discussed every day for 2 minutes with some 265 episodes, he has just launched a major review of the state of our environment entitled State of Nature covering the UK and our overseas territories.

As you may expect, the report makes quite mixed reading with some birds, animals and plants doing well with others almost disappearing from our countryside. On the downside

  • Turtle Doves have declined by 93% since 1970
  • Hedgehogs have declined by around a third since the millennium
  • The small tortoiseshell butterfly has declined in abundance by 77%in the last ten years

And we have seen this in the village withy, for example, Hedgehogs being really quite scarce. One species of plant, the Corn Cleaver, used to occur in arable fields but efficient farming methods, including herbicides, mean this plant is only found in three locations in the UK.

It’s not all bad news and there are two great examples in the village. Around the village there seem to be increasing numbers of House Sparrows. They have declined by some 70% but around the High Street and nearby they do seem to be in greater numbers. This year, for the first time as far as I am aware, there is a colony of Starlings nesting in the Blackthorn on the Cliff. The noise from these gregarious birds is quite something when they fly in to feed their chicks.

We are also fortunate that some of the more cryptic species (I mean that they are hidden) seem to be holding their own. Slow Worms, for example, seem to be around the village in reasonable numbers. These legless lizards often occur in gardens and burrow into the soil in search of slugs and worms. They have a number of quite amazing characteristics – they give birth to live young, they can discard their tail if attacked and then grow a new one and can live up to 30 years in the wild. Their main predator are cats against which they have no defence. They can be seen in gardens and in grassy areas but can be very hard to spot The photo was taken on the Cliff in May this year and I have seen them on the steep parts of the Cliff.

Slow Worm on Sherston Cliff May 2013

Slow Worm on Sherston Cliff May 2013


Overall the State of Nature report makes quite difficult reading and it makes a very valid point that different parts of nature need different types of help. If, for example, we want to help Barn Owls we can put up more nesting boxes as the lack of suitable nesting sites can limit their ability to increase in numbers. Helping migrating birds or insects is much more complex as it may, for example, be really important to protect sites in west or North Africa where they stop over while migrating.

So what can you and I do to help? The first place to start is to get out and understand what we have around us. Join The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust or Butterfly Conservation or Buglife or the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers – they all offer ways of helping make a difference either through physical activities or more sedate one such as helping raise funds or helping in visitor centres.

We do have fantastic local wildlife which can be really quite surprising – just look for slugs mating at this time of year – quite amazing (if somewhat gross….)


Pity the poor migrants

29 Apr

The unseasonable wet cold weather is set to stay for some time, so the birds that have just arrived from southern Europe and Africa will be finding it really difficult to find food. Some Swallows arrived in the past week and can you imagine the problems they will be having in finding insects on the wing in this weather.

The birds that have already nested will have chicks hatching soon so I really hope it gets warmer soon to bring out the bugs, grubs and caterpillars to enable the parents to feed them.

Not much chance of any photographs and I was going to go on a weekend wildlife photography course next weekend camping in some woods. May have to postpone…

Bumblebees are now out and about

11 Mar

The weather this weekend has been superb. Warm days have encouraged all sorts of insects to come out of hibernation especially (at least in my garden) Ladybirds. They are very active although probably not finding too much to eat as yet. I hope too many don’t starve but it may mean we don’t have too many aphids to deal with later in the year.

Bumblebees were out and about in Grove Wood – these are the first I have seen this year but I have been out of the country most of the last two weeks.

There are some 250 species of bees in the UK of which some 24 are bumblebees of which 2 have become extinct in the past 70 years and others are under pressure.

If you want to find out which ones are in your garden, or you have seen out and about have a look at this guide from The Bumble Bee Conservation Trust at:

If you do come across anything interesting please do share it in a comment. Thank you.

New homes needed

20 Feb

Spring is just around the corner, snowdrops are out, jackdaws are nesting and the work at Grove Wood is coming to an end so it must mean………………. time to clean out the nest boxes and put new ones up.

Please put up a variety of next boxes not just the ones for Blue Tits etc. Our sparrow population seems to be going from strength to strength (try walking down the High Street first thing in the morning and hear the noise they make!) so please put up some open fronted boxes as well.

If you live on the edge of the village, or somewhere more rural, try putting up bigger nest boxes for owls and bats. Another one of my pub theories, and there is evidence to support this for a change, is that many of our larger birds suffer from a shortage of nesting sites especially those that need nesting holes or closed spaces such as owls.

One major implication of providing more nest boxes is that there are more chicks and they, in turn, need more food. So maybe we should think about what we can do to provide food sources for the birds through the summer. As many of them need insects have a think about what you plant in your garden which attracts bees, hover flies and butterfly’s. Did you see the BBC programme about exactly this? If not it’s on BBC iPlayer –

Time is short on this – so get those nest boxes sorted out this weekend or it may be too late for this year.