Meadow yellow

Meadow yellow
Bulbous Buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus) in a Devon meadow

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Migrating south

Two harsh winters in a poorly heated woodland house would be enough to test most people’s resolve. Ice on the inside of the bedroom and puffed up like ‘Michelin’ marshmallows we held on each day for the allocated evening heating. My wife’s semi-Italian blood just found it too extreme, despite last Christmas’s present of an electric blanket. So with some regret about leaving the Pinfold’s peacefulness and woodland wildlife, I moved with my family over the summer from Nottinghamshire to Devon warmth. Of course it was not just the more amiable climate that pulled us South, but my desire to be part of a richer more stimulating landscape with greater biodiversity. Devon had always appealed to me with its mix of extensive coastline, moors and rivers.

We have moved to a cottage on the outskirts of Totnes within the wooded Gatcombe valley, with its rolling hills, high hedgebanks and gentle streams, views to Dartmoor and easy access to South Hams coastline. The wildlife experienced already has certainly not disappointed. An evening woodland walk was rewarded with a badger sighting. From our own home I was surprised by a darting Kingfisher slightly off track from its aquatic path. Three times I have seen a Sparrowhawk swooping through the cluster of cottages trying to take Sparrows by surprise. I even got a glimpse of a Peregrine soaring overhead as I painted a skylight, whilst the ever present buzzards glide by effortlessly, heralded by their mewing cries. Botanically the valley is rich in hedgebank & woodland plants and particularly noted for species of Crane’s-bill (see image of Long-stalked Crane’s-bill). Further afield I have treated myself to Cirl Buntings on the nearby coast and rock pool diving to see Blue-rayed Limpets and star ascidians amongst many marine species.
In recent weeks I have become aware of Nature’s more natural migration with swallows collecting on telegraph wires and family groups of House Martins’ collectively feeding on the roof of Butterwell Cottage. They too have to make decisions about climate and make the difficult journey south, whilst we hopefully will be enjoying our first comparatively warmer winter in our new cosy cottage.

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