SeckarWood: home to stoats, weasels, green woodpeckers, roe deer, 170 species of fungi including fly agaric, one of the most ancient plant species on earth, and an unexpected tree-sprite!
After a couple of hours of refreshing rain yesterday – our first in a month – we’re back to scorching sun, and I can’t say I’ve enjoyed my first summer as Hubcap’s assistant gardener so far. It’s been much too dry and much too hot, to the point where he’s often left me at home for fear that I’d pass out with heatstroke (having been in this game for 31 years, he’s more hardened to extreme conditions). Mind you, he hasn’t needed me as much – the grass-cutting I usually do literally dried up weeks ago – and when we do work together, I’m mostly cleaning up dead leaves and applying water to try and keep the poor gardens alive (you can read my tips for surviving the heatwave on my latest blog).
It’s been a tough summer for Beckside, too. We had our first case of the dreaded ash die-back (pictured), which resulted in the loss of a tree; and for the first time we’ve had to start watering the orchard once a week to stop the saplings dying and help their fruit to swell.
However, we have had some notable successes too. Luckily, thanks to a good mulch of dried grass and dead turfs, the orchard soil is retaining moisture despite the extreme heat, and as you can see Hubcap demonstrating in the picture, the apples are growing remarkably well – as are the amphibians! All the newts in our tiny pond have grown up and moved out; at least one of our tadpoles is now a thumbnail-sized froglet; and last weekend, I was pleased to see that one of last year’s frogs from the beck had discovered the pond and was enjoying a good soak (you may be able to spot its head near the centre of the photo). Hubcap’s also chuffed to bits with his latest endeavour: utilising spare bits of stone to create a ‘low flow management system’, ie a small dam with a fish-gate, assisted by the council’s watercourse management officer who handily lives nearby. The resident chub are delighted with the deeper water; apparently after the dam was installed and he’d dug a load of silt out, they all rushed into the pool and started dashing about like excited puppies as soon as he climbed out of the water. He’s also started to rebuild the original stone wall lining of the beck – and says when it’s finished, it should look like it used to when he started fishing there as a young boy. Well done, Hubcap!