Posted in Environment, Nature

Caring for a hedgehog

Snuffling around

“I heard a growling outside my kitchen window…”

So started Simon’s encounter with a rather spiky garden visitor. Unfortunately this particular creature seemed to be rather poorly, it was wheezing and wasn’t moving much.

Simon put the prickly creature in a cardboard box containing water, and rang up several wildlife rescues. Nobody answered but then again it was after 10pm. Hedgehogs may have been up and about but many humans were heading to the Land of Slumber.

Understandable maybe, but it still left a dilemma for Simon. What to do now? Was the hog hungry? Thirsty? Should he keep Mr/Mrs Tiggywinkle overnight in his house? Should he try and feed the hedgehog?

He decided on the latter, buying dog food at a late night supermarket. Surprisingly, when he got home, the hedgehog was trying to climb out of the box. So Simon found a bigger box and, along with the water and now dog food, back in popped the rather large Mr or Mrs Tiggywinkle.

The following morning, the hedgehog kept escaping.

Simon told me: “It broke out of the cardboard box and hid under the bookcase in the spare room. I found it a couple of hours ago. So I put it in a plastic box. It’s done the same thing again.”

It ate some of the meat so that was one good thing, although food and animals can have consequences. Especially escaping ones.

Meal time

“I don’t mind the hedgehog on the floor,” continued Simon, “although I’d prefer it didn’t poo on the carpet.

“It went exploring in the night. I found poo in front of the TV. I thought I could smell something but presumed that it was just the dog food I’d left out.”

The hedgehog turned out to be an avid reader with a great love of books – or at least that was the way it seemed considering how often he/she headed towards the bookcase. Unfortunately hedgehogs are quite tricky to free from hiding spots under bookcases.

Checking out the book collection

That morning Simon got through to a nearby rescue sanctuary. Taking the hog for a check-up, the hog expert told Simon he had done the right thing by keeping the creature in overnight and recommended he released it that evening as it may have a litter nearby. There was no way of finding out if Spike was male or female as he/she had rolled into a ball when being examined.

The hedgehog slept that afternoon, tucked up in Simon’s fleece. In the meantime, Simon was busy constructing a new home for his house guest. He made the hedgehog house out of wood and stuffed dried grass into the sleeping area. To keep cats and other potential predators at bay, he covered the house with raspberry canes.

Creating a hedgehog home
The finished house
A house for hogs
Fast asleep

By evening, the hog’s breathing was less laboured and noisy. Simon released the still-sleeping hog into its new home, along with food and water. In the morning, the hedgehog had upped and left, back on his or her rounds once more. If you would like to build a hedgehog home for your garden, visit https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/nature-on-your-doorstep/garden-activities/giveahogahome/

Posted in Environment, Environmental issues, Nature, Thoughts on life and spirituality

Our World: The Other Environmental Crisis

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Increasingly there has been more and more talk from politicians about climate change. There has been widescale protests from groups such as Extinction Rebellion and the young activist Greta Thurnberg has spoken out against the climate changing. Personally I believe there has always been climate change taking place over a gradual basis for millions of years – but the meddling with nature by humans over the past couple of hundred years has damaged the balance and has exacerbated and quickened the changes.

When the powers-that-be focused on the climate, I was glad that finally people at the top seemed to start caring about nature. But I then started to feel that the focus seemed very much on ‘green technology’. Is this type of technology really green? For example, where do the batteries for electric cars come from? I don’t know but I don’t believe technology is the be-all and end-all. If I were in politics, I would also opt for more incentives to use public transport; safer, more attractive and convenient paths to walk on; better cycle routes…

Behind all the talk about climate change, there is another emergency going on that is closely connected to the issue. This is the biodiversity emergency.

According to the WWF: “Biodiversity is all the different kinds of life you’ll find in one area—the variety of animals, plants, fungi, and even microorganisms like bacteria that make up our natural world. Each of these species and organisms work together in ecosystems, like an intricate web, to maintain balance and support life. Biodiversity supports everything in nature that we need to survive: food, clean water, medicine, and shelter.”

WWF


But the WWF adds: “As humans put increasing pressure on the planet, using and consuming more resources than ever before, we risk upsetting the balance of ecosystems and losing biodiversity.”

The wildlife charity’s https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/living-planet-report-2018 found the global populations of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians had declined by 60 per cent (on average) since 1970. 

Borneo’s forests are vital for biodiversity – but too often attracts humans wanting to plunder it for natural resources such as trees, coal, metals, minerals and rubber. Depressingly, the WWF says 30 per cent of Borneo’s forests have been destroyed in only 40 years. Of course this will have an impact on its wildlife. Half of all critically endangered Bornean orangutans have been lost in the past 20 years. 

The decline of biodiversity is happening in Britain too. In a recent RSPB magazine, it stated that the latest State of Nature reports that the abundance and distribution of nature in the UK has declined by 13 and five per cent respectively since the 1970s. Since the 1950s, the UK has lost roughly one wildflower species per county, per year – these are vital for moths, butterflies and other insects. Indeed, the abundance of butterflies has decreased by 16 per cent. Insects, as well as being important for pollination, are important food for birds.

What happens to one species affects another, such is the way of ecosystems. According to State of Nature report, the causes are “agricultural management, climate change, urbanisation, pollution, woodland management and invasive non-native species.”

Climate change harms nature, but so too does pollution. So too does habitat loss and urbanisation. If wildlife has no home, how can it exist? Thank goodness for environmental charities such as the Woodland Trust and the RSPB. They buy land and maintain it as nature reserves and woodland.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Climate change has a negative impact on wildlife but if we work with nature – not against it as we have done in the past and present day – we can, I believe, help to combat climate change, or at least reduce its most harmful effects. And at the same time, we will help the planet get back into its rightful balance. But humans have to realise that we are part of the natural world. In a religious, spiritual and ecological sense, I suspect we are meant to be the caretakers of the planet – not the lords and masters.

The hypocrisy of the world’s politicians strikes me. The UK’s Prime Minister is good at talking the talk, not so good when it comes to actually genuinely caring about the environment. He and his party want another runway at Heathrow Airport; they wanted to plough on with HS2, a very expensive and unnecessary high speed train that will destroy ancient woodlands; they are seemingly intent on destroying wildlife habitat for often unnecessary office and home developments – even though there are many empty and derelict buildings in urban and suburban landscapes that could and should be used. Now he will proclaim how Britain will be carbon neutral. You want to be carbon neutral? Why not put nature first – protect our wildlife habitats, leave our green spaces alone, create more nature reserves. Look after nature and we will find nature will more than likely return the favour.

WWF – Endangered Species Conservation | World Wildlife Fund

rspb_state-of-nature_summary-report_uk.pdf

What is biodiversity? | Pages | WWF (worldwildlife.org)

Posted in Environment, Gardens, Nature

Learning about Trees – the Rowan Tree

My rowan tree, photographed in July

I have written previously about my goal to be able to recognise and name trees. So I thought I would start close to home, from my driveway to be precise. My driveway was once a barren spot, fit only to park a car, but over the last few years it has become a mini wild area. And one of the residents of my ‘wild driveway’ is a rowan tree. Back in 2014 or thereabouts, I joined the Woodland Trust for the first time. I kept seeing their sign whenever I walked in one of their woods and I realised that it was thanks to The Woodland Trust that there were so many beautiful and accessible woodlands near me (and possibly near you too if you live in Britain).

My rowan tree, planted in my ‘wild driveway’

And yes, the thought of a free gift also enticed me. This free gift was a rowan tree sapling. Rowan trees, also know as the mountain ash, are slender, with silver-brown bark. They’re excellent for wildlife as they have white spring flowers and red berries in autumn. So win-win for insects and birds alike. They are deciduous so lost their leaves in winter.

The Woodland Trust says the rowan tree – which can grow to an average height of 8 to 15 metres – can live for 200 years so hopefully my tree will long outlast me, providing pollen and nectar for pollinating insects (including bees) and berry food for birds such as song thrushes and waxwings. Of course, like all trees, my rowan also absorbs carbon and purifies the air. So even my tiny driveway is doing its bit for climate change too.

And as an added extra, it looks great too!

Red berries in autumn Picture courtesy of The Woodland Trust

In the wild the rowan grows higher (1,000m) than any other tree hence its other name, the mountain ash. There’s a lot of folklore connected to the rowan – it was seen as a magical protector and planted outside houses to keep witches away.

The Woodland Trust
Posted in Nature

A love of bite-size facts

Factfiles about mute swans and macaw parrots

Recently I wrote a post about planets and a reader’s comment about bite-size facts reminded me of how much I too love quirky and fascinating, interesting and informative facts. I was further reminded when I met my friend and godchildren. Noah, eight, presented me with various factsheets about swans, parrots and peregrine falcons. It turned out to be a very educational weekend – for me!

So here are some facts, courtesy of Noah…

Photo by Anthony on Pexels.com
  1. All the swans in Britain belong to the Queen.
  2. Swans can live for 25 years.
  3. It is illegal to kill swans in Britain.
  4. Peregrine falcons can reach up to 200mph when diving – they are the fastest animals.
  5. There are only 10,000 blue and gold macaw parrots left in the wild and 1,500 scarlet macaws left. This is due to the pet industry and loss of habitat because of deforestation.
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

And here are some extra facts, courtesy of me (and The Miles Kelly Book of Life):

  1. There are at least 360,000 types of beetle – they make up about one-third of all animal species.
  2. Most spiders have six or eight eyes.
  3. Spiders sometimes run fast but it won’t be for very long. The Miles Kelly Book of Life states: ‘Their breathing system is not good enough for sustained exertion’. So don’t worry, spiders can’t catch you!
  4. What is the simplest animal? It is the sponge, which has no proper brain, muscles, nerves – or even eyes.
  5. What mysterious animal that’s rarely seen alive and lives in the deep ocean? Answer? The giant squid.

If I am ever stranded on a desert island, please supply me with a good book of facts and I will be quite content!

Posted in Environment, Nature, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

A nature stroll through Grimsargh Wetlands – one of Lancashire’s newest nature reserves

Grimsargh Wetlands – The Island Lake

Grimsargh Wetlands is one of Lancashire’s newest nature reserves, having been created by transforming three decommissioned United Utilities reservoirs into a fairly small (it’s a 30-minute one-mile stroll around the reserve) but highly important nature reserve. Back in 2003, it was designated a Biological Heritage Site but it was in 2017 when it was formally handed over to the parish council. Grimsargh Wetlands Trust now runs the site.

The Island Lake

We hear much of a housing crisis for people, but there is also a ‘housing crisis’ for nature as humans take away more and more wildlife habitat so when I hear of new nature reserves being formed or current ones being protected, it gladdens my heart. I first heard of Grimsargh Wetlands through a newspaper article this year after the Grimsargh Wetlands Trust, which maintains the reserve, received a £10,000 grant. This inspired me to pay a visit.

It’s only a few miles away from Preston, in the village of Grimsargh but, after parking in a side street, off the main road, we were unable to find the reserve at first. There appeared to be no signs but, strangely, once we left, we kept coming across signage! (Isn’t it always the way?)

Annoyingly, we forgot binoculars but we still saw geese and swans with the naked eye. On the website it says there is a colony of ringlet butterflies and a possibility of hearing the distinctive curlew or glimpsing roe deer through the reeds. Bats have also been spotted here too.

The Mere

Directions on the internet stated it was at the back of a new housing estate. We found a path and followed, crossing a field. I think we took a wrong turning early on but our encounter with a group of children and their teaching assistants confirmed that we were heading in the right direction – especially when we came across a hide in front of The Island Lake. This is a shallow lake with mudflats. Following the path around, we came across The Fen. The Trust is hoping to create at least three ponds and increase the extent of reed beds in this marshland. There are also plans to grow more wildflowers at the reserve, especially by the viewing platforms.

Our walk took us back to the road and it was now when we noticed signs to the reserve!

We took another turning, away from the main road towards The Mere, another reservoir turned lake. Here we saw volunteers carry wooden boxes – tern nests – to an island on the lake. They were hoping terns would come to live and breed there. Interestingly, one of the volunteers said that Preston Docks – an urban location – has a colony of terns.

The reserve is next to the former Preston/Longridge railway embankment. I learnt that Longridge stone was taken from the quarries in Longridge, a small town near Grimsargh, to be transported to Preston and further afield.

It may not be the largest reserve but its habitat will be of great importance to wetland birds and other wildlife. And it is a very pleasant scenic walk for us humans too.

The Island Lake

For more details, visit: Grimsargh Wetlands | A Haven for Wildlife

Watch stunning drone footage of one of Lancashire’s newest nature reserves, which is being opened up to the public | Lancashire Evening Post (lep.co.uk)

Posted in Environment, Nature

The Guardians of Mason Wood

Mason Wood

I discovered this wonderful selection of wood art in Mason Wood, Preston. I imagine it’s depicting both the wild creatures who live here and the gentle guardians, usually invisible and secretive, who look after the woodland and its inhabitants.

I apologise for the lack of Cosy Cottage updates recently. I got sidetracked but am back again! 🙂

Posted in Nature, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Secrets of Preston: Conway Park

A riverside walk
Conway Park
The entrance – and exit – to Conway Park

Preston is full of surprises. In a previous post, I’ve told of my Highgate Wood mini adventure. A woodland I had walked past many a time and never once got round to venturing in until this year. At least I had heard of that particular beautiful spot but Conway Park was a place I had never even heard of. And when I did hear the name, for some reason I got it into my head that it was an area of open space, maybe a park for children to play, a grassy field with play equipment to one side. And that would be it. Fun for children, respite for parents but not of particular interest for walkers and explorers of secret nature havens and mini beauty spots.

Work being done on The Village Parklands

But one day, meeting up with a friend for a local walk, she told me about a map given to her by someone she knew. On it was our local area and mapped out was a walk. Conway Park was mentioned.

‘It looks like our normal local walk ‘, my friend said. And it did. But we set off anyway, following the map. Everything looked familiar until…

‘I think we go right here,’ Caroline said.

And that was when our usual suburban trek turned into more of a mystery trail. For there at the end of that cul-de-sac of houses was a signpost and, behind it, a park.

Conway Park

The sign said Conway Park. There was a path to the right and one to the left. We turned left and followed the woodland trail past a sports pitch with a pavilion, and then along a river.

A riverside wander

We came across a sign for a new 80-acre nature reserve/public open space, The Village Parklands, being created. I love it when I see natural spaces being protected or created instead of being destroyed.

The Village Parklands

We continued our walk along the river and finally ended up along a narrow wooded path, ending up at a different part of our usual walk! We had wandered past the public footpath many a time, never realising the secret behind it. As a child, I had a thing about secret passageways, and here was one I was discovering as an adult!

A secret passage …
The Friends of Conway Park, formed in 2015, is made up of members who work for the benefit of the park. The park itself is owned by Preston City Council. Currently the Friends has a crowdfunding campaign  (50K by May fundraising campaign) to improve the children's playground, create a dry standing area for watching football, and a new path along the length of the park. The park will eventually join up with the new Village Parkland.
Posted in Nature, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Secrets of Preston: Clough Copse

Clough Copse

I ventured out on another local walk recently, this time to a little patch of broadleaved woodland owned and maintained by The Woodland Trust. It’s called Clough Copse, a 3.95 acre site that is popular with dog walkers and joggers. Located in Fulwood, Preston, it sits amid steep valleys and is surrounded by a large supermarket and housing – yet when I’ve been there it feels as if urban and suburban life is many, many miles away.

According to the Trust, trees include oak, ash, sycamore, holly, beech, elder, hazel and cherry. It was the start of March when I visited so I didn’t notice any flowers but I’ve heard bluebells, dog’s mercury, and red campion can be seen here. The little stream flows towards Savick Brook, which can be seen in Highgate Wood, which I wrote about recently.

These little refuges are fantastic for wildlife, for flora and fauna, but they’re also vital for us humans to reconnect with nature and recharge our batteries.

Clough Copse
Clough Copse
Posted in Nature, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Secrets of Preston: Highgate Wood

Highgate Wood

For many of us, lockdowns and travel restrictions have made us more aware of our immediate surroundings. Whereas in the past, going for a walk in the Lake District or Yorkshire Dales might be a common enough event for someone living in the north of England, at the moment there are restrictions and with it the fear of possibly being stopped by police for a ‘non-essential journey’.

So it’s been a time to stay local and this is when I realise that a city like Preston has a lot of little natural beauty spots, well hidden from the rest of the world. Today I visited Highgate Wood in the suburbs of Preston. Its entrance is on one of the main roads (Garstang Road) into Preston. Why I have walked past it on various occasions but never thought to pay a visit I do not know. But I’m here now. It’s not a large wood but it’s a very pleasant place to stroll, with Savick Brook flowing in the middle, paths either side and benches dotted around.

The woodland is located in Highgate Park, also the name of an old residence built in 1876 which was once situated here. A group of residents called The Friends of Highgate Wood look after the woodland.

Savick Brook, Highgate Wood
Highgate Wood
The entrance to Highgate Wood
Posted in Environment, Nature

A Medley of Trees

Photo by Alexander Kovalyov on Pexels.com

All my life I have wanted to learn the types of trees, to be able to identify them by their bark, their trunks, their leaves, their buds, their branches… To know their myths, history, ecology and more… I start off every new year with this unofficial resolution to learn my trees in the same way once, many years ago, I learnt my times tables.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But winter never seems a great time to learn once the trees have lost their leaves. Then by spring and summer, this resolution has fallen – like so many – by the wayside. And when it gets to winter again, and I embark on a frosty walk in the local woodland, once more I think “wouldn’t it be nice to be able to tell the difference between that tree and this tree?”

I love these majestic giants but how little do I know them!

So I will use this blog to act as an occasional tree journal to help jog my memory when it comes to learning about trees.