All has been activity in the fields around here this last week with the harvesting. Suddenly the landscape is transformed. I love to see the fields full of wheat, barley and beans but I also really like seeing stubble fields - they remind me of long summer days riding across them when I was younger! The views open up again and expanses seem accessible. When it comes to ploughing though there is a tinge of sadness with autumn coming.
There are still many birds to see - flocks of skylarks and our resident green woodpecker as well as swallows and buzzards.
Nearby in Sudbury there are the water meadows, some of the most ancient continuously grazed land in England. They are managed by the Sudbury Common Lands Charity and have a network of footpaths across them, making them a great place for walking, although they are also a farmed area. They lie in the floodplain, with the River Stour running through the middle, so at certain points of the year they are covered with water. In the summer cattle graze there - they have a ceremonial letting on of the cattle in May and then they are taken off the meadows usually in late October.
As well as the cattle, the water meadows are a great place for wild life - kingfishers, little egrets, barn owls, buzzards, swans, moorhens and an array of dragon flies and damsel flies and other insects. The landscape has wetland plants, marsh orchids, rushes and sedges.
The Mill Hotel in Sudbury is a lovely place to stop off for a coffee or a drink and sit and admire the views.
Further afield, but still not far Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge also have lovely water meadows and of course in Cambridge the backs are there too and there is no better way to see them than by punt - you can hire your own or go on a punt tour, where someone does the hard work for you!
I was woken by the sounds of a nightingale early this morning and the birdsong has continued on this brightish day. It is lovely to hear after the recent rains. I heard the first cuckoo on 16th April but I am still waiting to see the first swallows and house martins return. The house martins nest each year in the eves on the front of the Dairy, which faces west - it is great to watch them flitting backwards and forwards and feeding their young. There are a great variety of birds in the garden and surrounding fields, and although I am no bird watcher I have noticed flocks of skylarks, several woodpeckers, pied wagtails and a variety of tits and finches amongst them. I must find a bird book to help my recognition!
The orchard was humming this morning - the cherry blossom is beautiful at the moment with a delicious scent. The plum and gage blossom is fading and the apple and pear is just beginning to come out. We planted the orchard in 1997, there are 36 trees altogether, with a row of cherries on the left, a row of plums and gages at the back and a row of pears on the right - in the middle are apples. They are all old varieties associated with Suffolk and Essex, we thought this seemed appropriate as this whole area up until the 1970's was covered with apple orchards - it is sad that they were grubbed up. Only one apple tree remains from that time - but I have an aerial photo of the farm in the 1970's and also some documents from the records office listing the varieties that were here in 1951!
I hope that the recent rain doesn't spoil the pollination - hopefully the sun this morning will help. On Sunday the kitchen garden looked very dramatic in the stormy weather with a double rainbow behind the wall. Beyond the next field behind the wall are two ancient woods - Butlers Wood and Waldegrave Wood, as well as Parsonage Wood over towards the Tye - we often get a rainbow that seems to start in Parsonage Wood and end in Butlers Wood, going across the sky behind the garden - it always looks magical though of course I would prefer sunshine to rain!