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Rachel Coyle’s Wildlife visit to The Mill @ Lewinshope

Rachel’s survey blog

Hello everyone, my name is Rachel and recently I have been doing a bit of survey work at Lewinshope. I am wildlife enthusiast and I have been working with wildlife charities over the past 3 years, carrying out habitat management work on nature reserves.  Like many people I am concerned about the declines that have occurred in British wildlife over the past few years so I am always delighted to meet people who are keen to do something about it, by providing spaces for wildlife around their homes. Bordered with open fields and deciduous woodland the grounds of Lewinshope have real potential for wildlife and Lulu and Johnny are keen to create more areas for wildlife around the Mill. For this reason I was called in to come and have a look at the Mill and its surrounding grounds to find out what was about.tars of the show at Lewinshope are the swallows, which seem to be nesting everywhere!  A quick peep into one of the barns and I counted 8 nests all crammed up in the rafters. Old buildings with high rafters are favoured by swallows and martins and the outbuildings here at Lewinshope seem to be providing the ideal nesting spaces for these birds.

Lulu and Johnny also have a few other nest boxes dotted around the place at the Mill. Their barn owl box unfortunately seemed to be unoccupied however we did spot a blue tit busily bringing in nesting material to a box a few trees away. Lulu and I discussed putting out a few different styles of nest boxes to provide places for birds with different nesting habits including robins, wrens and house sparrows. Allowing creeping plants like clematis, jasmine or ivy to spread up the wall of buildings also provides perfect areas of cover for birds like robins and sparrows.

The woodland at the rear of the Mill is a lovely open, quiet space for a short stroll. On my visit the early flowering plants of spring were starting to peak through and the sound of bird song could be heard in all directions.

Something I was keen to see in the woodland here at Lewinshope was lots of deadwood. A bit of an odd thing to get excited about you may think, however, while working out on woodland nature reserves over the past few years I have learned about the importance of leaving some areas a little bit messy for wildlife.  Log piles, fallen trees and standing dead trees all provide places for insects, bats and birds to hide away.  I was pleased to see some evidence of this in the woodland at Lewinshope. Some of the old tree stumps have been completely taken over by mosses and lichen and are providing surfaces for wild flowers like dog violet, wood sorrel and yellow pimpernel.

While carrying out my survey of the Mill I spent some time looking at flowers around the Mill pond. I was very fortunate with the weather this week and I decided to sit by the pond to sort through the plants I had found, while enjoying the sunshine. A bit of a mistake perhaps, as while I sat, there was plenty to distract me from my wildflower id guides. Bronze coloured damselflies darted and chased one another through the horsetail (Never resting long enough for me to get a picture).   A pair of mallards dabbled around the shallow edges over the far side and swarms of swallows and martins swooped and circled above the water catching insects.

Areas of water are extremely important for wildlife providing feeding, drinking and bathing areas for birds and spawning grounds for frogs and toads. Ponds also create habitat for creepy crawlies like dragonflies, beetles and their larvae.

Wildlife ponds don’t always have to be big, like the large mill pond at Lewinshope. My garden pond consists of an old plastic sandpit filled with rainwater which has been placed in the shelter of an area of brambles at the edge of the garden. This ‘pond’ provides the local birds with drinking and bathing opportunities and has even attracted a frog or two over the years.  I look forward to seeing how Lulu and Johnny get on with developing areas for wildlife at the Mill. It’s amazing what just a few small changes can do.


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