Page 20 - Forest Row Local August Edition
P. 20

20 August 2022 • Forest Row Local
News from... Tablehurst Community Farm
 This month we celebrate the diverse ecology and wildlife of Tablehurst Farm. The farm practises a form of agriculture known as biodynamics which promotes vitality, balance and sustainability, as well
as having strong social, ethical and spiritual roots.
The absence of industrial farming methods, artificial fertilisers and chemical pesticides on the farm improves soil health and fertility, leaves plenty of space in field borders, hedgerows and meadows for wildlife to exist, and increases biodiversity.
This makes the farm a particularly interesting place for local ecologists and botanists like Tom Forward and Brad Scott, friends/supporters of the farm who have both led walks exploring the different wildlife and habitats of Tablehurst. Tom’s birdsong walk in May had us up for the dawn chorus at 5am. We learned to tune into the hedgerows and woodlands coming alive with the sound of birdsong as the day broke. In total we encountered 26 different types of birds that morning, from blackbirds and wood pigeons to linnets, blackcaps and dunnocks. Brad then led a walk in June where
he introduced the group to the abundance of wild plants growing in different habitats around the farm. We discovered arable weeds, hedgerows and Pixton meadow with its profusion of wildflowers. Both Tom and Brad’s love and enthusiasm for Tablehurst came across clearly and helped all of us who attended the events to form a deeper relationship with the ecology of the farm, and to see parts of it with new eyes.
The natural life of the farm is also of interest to Elaine Lancashire of our shop team who is often seen walking the tracks and fields of Tablehurst during her lunch hour. Here she describes some of the real encounters she’s had with wildlife on the farm over many years, amalgamated into a single (fictional) trip:
“As I set off on the footpath I hear the chirping of hedge sparrows and starlings raising their young. I head up the hill and see a greater whitethroat. I look up to see a kestrel out hunting. A passing crow warns of an intruder as jackdaws mob the buzzard circling overhead. Swallows swoop out hunting for insects and, as I look down, I see a hairy caterpillar make its way across the path. The buttercups and dandelions sway softly in the breeze as a peacock butterfly gently lands, shortly followed by a red admiral and a tortoiseshell; what a treat to have all these butterflies in the same vicinity. I spook a rabbit that runs into the hedge as a
sly fox slinks away from me. Further along, a squirrel climbs up a tree. In the distance a cuckoo calls and nearby I hear the distinct sounds of the chiff chaff and garden warbler; wren and robin also join in with their song. A weasel skips along the path ahead of me.
"As I reach the woods I hear the drilling of the woodpecker. Blue tits, great tits, long tailed tits and tree creepers all hide in the tree canopy, whilst a blackcap comes and perches nearby. A song thrush serenades me as I walk through the woodland. As I approach a clearing I hear the distinct call of a raven overhead.
I make my way down the field and magpies, jay and mistle thrush take to the air. I disturb a deer which
bolts for the trees. Along the hedge line I can hear the gnawing of a mouse or a vole, and watch a snake slither past. Overhead grey lag geese and Canada geese fly in formation. As I near the pond a heron flies in to land.
A moorhen gives its warning call as mallard and coot swim away from the bank. Gold finches and linnets twitter in the trees overhead.
"My lunch break over, I head back towards the shop where pied wagtail and robin are waiting to greet me. Where else but Tablehurst can you experience such an array of wildlife in such a short space of time?"
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