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From the north

September 28, 2013

The Brampton fields take on the soundscape of the tundra. The plaintive flight calls of the Golden Plover are detectable, often in the immediate post dawn light and at dusk. Their flights in loose v-formation circle, merge and demerge. In the morning the notes make a strange counterpoint with the early traffic. Each year they stop off at the same very localised group of arable fields. What attracts them is difficult to determine, but they punctuate the year with their visits at Spring and Autumn.

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Bat walk

September 28, 2013

Evenings in late September are the prime time for bat walks. This evening the old railway line was teeming with them. Pipistrelles patrolling the well-treed sectors with their tightly turning acrobatics. Often many in sight and, with the help of a bat detector, in sound at the same time. They have favourite areas and stick to them and on occasion briefly chase one another. We walk and listen.

September

September 28, 2013

On a perfect September day, falling acorns rattle on the road. The leaves maintain their colour, with the early exception of the turning leaf of the Virginia Creeper. The Creeper clings to the walls of the Marsham Road Cottages. The sky is a softer blue, brushed with the feathery high cirrus cloud. Along the Railway Line a family of Bullfinches creep along the Blackthorn thickets. In the distance a lone Muntjac hurdles the potato baulks. The cool Saturday morning air just moves the very tips of the highest trees. It feels as if we are just about to turn the corner into Autumn proper.

Night calls

September 28, 2013

Tawny Owls are spending their nights in establishing their winter territories. The lighter calls are presumably the younger among them. At times the shouting match reaches a crescendo as two birds throw their calls at one another, often within the relatively confined space of the garden. We hear hear the scape of their talons as the land on the ridge tiles. In a semi sleeping state their arguments come and go. The outside night world making small incursions into the house and then drift away.

I count eighty eight House Martins and Swallows on the telephone lines near the Common. The gathering continues until, at some hidden signal, they will depart and leave us and take the summer with them. When that moment actually arrives is hard to spot, but by Sunday evening they have dispersed. The village really is on the cusp of the seasons this week. The convergence of the river, its valley, rail lines and roads seeming to combine to create a meeting place for the moving migrants. That evening we stumble across two Fallow Deer, not the usual Roe or Muntjac, both of whom were moving with intent – their own small scale migration in search of new territory.

The next morning the unmistakeable call of the Golden Plover drifts down as the first flock arrives at their favourite stopping off point on the way south from their tundra breeding grounds. As always they centre themselves on the same arable fields which must have become ingrained as the traditional rest on their long journey south. We hope to hear them during their night time flights as the moon becomes full late in September.

Last of the Brampton Elms

September 8, 2013

A giant fell this morning. The skeletal carcass of the last English Elm to have reached maturity in the village has been brought crashing to ground. It had far outlasted its contemporaries – many of which were felled when the Dutch Elm Disease struck in the 1970’s – but now decay had finally so-weakened the stem that it was unlikely to remain standing for a further winter. So, at ten minutes to ten on a Sunday morning, following a short chainsaw cut and a haul on a tractor winch, the old tree cracked and came to earth. What was left of its crown, which once touched up to 100 feet in height, split in to many pieces on impact. Tell tale star-like shadows of fungal growth showed through where the viable bark had spilt away. These are the marks of its death and decay. The stump looks as weak as cork. There is a gap in the skyline. Some ten years ago tree surgeons had taken cuttings from its then fully leaved crown in the hope that it was disease resistant. But the cuttings came to nothing and the disease took hold. Now this is its epitaph.

It’s young relations, mostly clones of the parent, still sporadically grow as hedge plants for a few years until the Dutch Elm gets to them. No Elm in the parish reached maturity in recent years. The bare branches remain in hedge lines for a few years until they are tidied away or trimmed back. The Elm is no longer a feature in the local landscape. Although it held on for longer than most in the area.

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