I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
– William Wordsworth
Daffodils have long been considered one of the heralds of spring, and after months of grey skies and rain these first signs of the new season are extremely welcome. Daffodils were first brought to Britain by the Romans who thought that the sap from daffodils had healing powers, so it may be surprising to learn that daffodils were also historically associated with bad luck, especially for poultry. It was said that if a single flower was picked and brought indoors, then only one chick would hatch from a clutch of eggs, and if the flowers really did have to be picked and brought indoors, then they should be at least 13 in number to break the spell.
March has been another busy month featuring St. David’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, the Spring Equinox and Mothering Sunday, not to mention the arrival of British Summer Time. Just yesterday I saw my first bumblebee of the year as well as a Red Admiral butterfly!
One of my latest projects to be unveiled very soon is The Untidy Garden; a small patch of fenced off land in close proximity to The Clubhouse, which was the ideal place to reintroduce a wildflower meadow. If we are to believe the statistics, 97% of UK wildflower meadows (7.5 million acres) have been lost since the Second World War and the intensification of farming, and now species-rich grassland covers a mere 1% of the UK’s land area. Meadows develop as a result of traditional farming practices; each small farm would have grown a few crops, had permanent pasture for grazing, and meadows for hay that were cut and stored to feed the livestock over winter. Management followed an annual cycle of growing in spring and summer, cutting in late summer and grazing in winter. But the turning point came during the Second World War when six million acres of grassland were ploughed to grow cereals, starting the inevitable decline. A meadow remains an important and crucial habitat, with the potential for over 150 different species of flower and grass to support a myriad of insects from bees and beetles to grasshoppers and butterflies, which in turn support many small animals and birds. The Untidy Garden (opposite the tennis courts) is intended to be a wild garden, where plants are cherished and the grass is allowed to grow long. Flowers will provide food in the form of nectar and pollen for bees and butterflies, and long grass and log piles will provide shelter for small mammals, reptiles and invertebrates. Ribwort Plantain, Ox-Eye Daisy and Bird’s-foot-trefoil are just some of the naturally occurring wild flowers in the garden, and with some careful management I look forward to a resurgence of colour and biodiversity over the coming months.
I mentioned in last month’s newsletter that I am preparing a timetable of outdoor activities for the summer months and with this in mind I recently spent the day with bat-related skills trainer, Author and Ecologist Neil Middleton. I have been involved in bat surveys for a number of years now, including assisting with radio-tracking a Whiskered Bat at NTS Threave Garden and Estate; participating in various building surveys for the presence of bats and assisting in checking bat boxes at various locations in Scotland. In Britain all bat species and their roosts are legally protected, therefore you must hold the correct licence if you carry out work affecting bats or their roosts. With the help of Neil’s expert knowledge and advice, I am fine tuning my skills and am really looking forward to presenting Bat walks as part of my summer programme. We are extremely fortunate at Cameron House to have such a variety of suitable habitats for a number of different species of bat, and what better opportunity for you to learn a bit more about this fascinating species too! More information about bats in general and what to do if you find one can be found at http://www.bats.org.uk/ as well as http://batability.co.uk/; I hope to welcome many of you to the guided sessions later on this year.
And finally, another very important date for your diaries – Friday 14th April kicks starts the 2017 Ranger-led events programme with an Easter Eggstravaganza being held at Cameron Club. This is a pre-bookable event; booking is also highly recommended as tickets are selling out fast! The day will start with an Easter Egg Hunt held in our very own Enchanted Wood at 11am; please arrive in good time to park, register and confirm your booking at The Clubhouse. After you’ve hunted high and low amongst the toadstools for little chocolate eggs, it will then be time to meet the Animal Man and participate (or spectate if you prefer) in his mini petting zoo! The zoo will be open for ticket holders from 12pm til 2pm, and at 1pm there will be a Rubber Duck Race held on the River Fruin, adjacent to the petting zoo. Tickets are priced at £10 per head (under 4s go free; spectating adults who are not participating in the events themselves do not need to purchase a ticket) and are available by called the Cameron Leisure Club on 01389 722 505 – book early to avoid disappointment!
Remember – arrive in good time to confirm your booking – the first event will begin at 11am promptly. I look forward to meeting you on the day.