deadhedge-4782

Our hardworking volunteers have been helping to transform logs and branches from felled trees into new habitats for wildlife on the farm, in the form of dead hedges and loggery. These projects will help support our resident wildlife, offering shelter to small mammals and birds, providing food and shelter to a wide range of invertebrates and even acting as a place for some of our pondlife to spend the winter. They also make excellent use of the wood which has resulted from the tree maintenance works across Mudchute. The strong winds this year have meant that we have had to remove several trees and branches to keep our open spaces safe for the public.

As these structures are made from wood, they will weather in the coming months and begin to rot down as they are eaten by minibeasts, fungi and bacteria. These creatures will in turn feed other organisms, recycling the nutrients in more ways than one. As the hedges rot down, we will top them up with additional fresh wood from any tree works, maintaining these habitats.

A big thank you goes out to our wonderful corporate volunteer groups from HSBC and Save the Children for their work in creating our dead hedge and to Standard Chartered for creating our new loggery!


Preparing some of the hundreds of new plants.

Preparing some of the hundreds of new plants.

Today Froglife joined us on our wildlife ponds to continue to improve the area for wildlife. A few months since our big cleanup, the ponds are looking much better and teeming with wildlife. However, some of the more aggressive plants have begun to dominate the area and we can make the ponds even better for wildlife by encouraging greater diversity in our plantlife.

To help us do this, Vanessa Barber and Alex Draper from Froglife came down to help us plant up the ponds with a greater variety of native species. Armed with over 300 individual plants of many different species, we worked to add a range of textures and habitats to the ponds. Our aim is to create lots of different areas to the ponds, including open water spaces as well as planted areas along the edges (with great growth for emerging invertebrates like damselflies and dragonflies), as well as vegetation beneath the water to provide food, oxygen and shelter for aquatic life. Last but not least we can add floating plants, which wildlife can use as refuges and an anchor for their eggs.

We spotted lots of wildlife during the planting including frogs, newts, spiders, bumblebees, damselflies and beetles of all sorts. It’s great to see wildlife making our ponds home and we hope the new planting and other new wildlife initiatives will encourage even more wild creatures to take up residence.


mudchute-shearing-4392

With warm summery weather on the horizon, it was time to get those fleeces off! Derek the shearer was back on the farm last week with clippers ready to shear our flock. It was a busy day and he will be coming back to shear our llamas and one of our alpacas soon. Shearing day was the hottest of the year (though we have since seen warmer temps!) and our flock seem very happy to have those fleeces off their backs.

Bonnie looking quite pleased to be having her fleece trimmed.

Bonnie looking quite pleased to be having her fleece trimmed.

We started with the mothers as their lambs don’t like being separated for too long at this age. First up was our first ewe to lamb, the Oxford Down ewe Bonnie.

Bonnie was an excellent model, sitting quietly throughout the shearing process. Her fleece was incredibly large and she must have been getting rather warm under all that wool. She’s a rather big girl, but much of that bulk was fleece as a slim and healthy ewe was revealed by the shears.

Bonnie after shearing and marked with the number 1, which also appears on her lambs.

Bonnie after shearing and marked with the number 1 to match her lambs.

It was fascinating to see the ewes and lambs reunited after shearing. The lambs know their mother by voice, smell and appearance. However, they seem to rely heavily on sight. There were lots of baas and reassurances required when they first saw their shorn mothers with the little ones looking puzzled. That sounds like my mum, but my mum is woolier than her! The hesitation didn’t last long though.

Bonnie reunited with her twin lambs.

Bonnie reunited with her twin lambs.

The lambs wait for their mothers to be shorn.

The lambs wait for their mothers to be shorn.

mudchute-shearing-4388

You can find more photos of the first part of our shearing below and we hope you’ll agree our sheep are looking lovely with their new trims. They certainly feel better for it in this heat. We sell their rare breed fleeces to handspinners and we do have a number of fleeces and alpaca fibre available. The fleeces are sold “raw”, just as they come off the sheep and full of lanolin. You can find out more about them here and by email to farm_office@mudchute.org.