Or perhaps, from my perspective over the past few weeks, it should be the field of nightmares. Two fields to be precise.
We bought two acres of land to go with the house when we moved in twenty years ago. It had originally come with about fifteen, but when a previous owner died, it had all been taken over by the farmer next door. We needed land attached to the lodge for our two llamas. (We were soon to add a few pygmy goats and a rescued pig). It was a tad more than we really needed, but I didn’t want to scrimp on grazing and it fitted perfectly on to the back of the garden.
Initially we looked after it. I’ve always believed that if you are fortunate enough to have land then you must take care of it, but it was hard going with nearly forty animals to care for and with both of us working full-time in those days. We weeded by hand and picked up fallen branches on a regular basis. We even tried to sow seeds to create a wild meadow, but in spite of all the hard work, nothing came of it.
The years rolled by and sadly our lovely neighbour died. We hadn’t appreciated how he had kept his adjacent field clear of weeds with regular topping, but soon we were inundated with thistles. We did try to clear them, but with more seeds blowing over the fence, it was a losing battle. Fast forward a few more years and the neighbours branched out with a new use for the land and we suddenly realised that their side is now immaculate. It doesn’t make me feel any better because there still isn’t enough time or energy to clear ours. At least, not until I took early retirement last month and ever since I’ve been working to reclaim our once beautiful land, or die trying.
So far I have removed all the adult thistles and sprayed those yet to grow. Now we are left with a solid patch about ten metres square. The only good thing I can say about them is that they are so dense they appear to have killed off all the stinging nettles. Maybe that isn’t the only good thing though, as on my rest days I often go out there with the little Coolpix and spend an hour or two photographing the insects. There are masses of them and not just because of the weeds. While I’ve been working out there I have spotted some of those meadow flowers we planted so many years ago. Now we have orchids, ragged robin, bird’s food trefoil and self-heal. There are others too and they are clearly attracting an assortment of butterflies, damselflies, bees and ladybirds.
It hasn’t been easy taking photographs as they are generally very active in the warmer weather. I got lucky with the bumble bee in the image featured above, as I found him sleeping on top of one of the last remaining nettles. I prodded him gently and he obliged by turning round for a portrait. I feel guilty taking away the thistles that they clearly love so much, but we can’t allow them to continue spreading. Fingers crossed that the insects return next year for the other wild flowers.
White Legged Damselfly
Long way down!