Join me and the Wilden Marsh conservation herd in a gentle stroll through Middle Marsh. We start in the Tenant Farmer’s Field and end up in North Pasture with much joyous frolicking. I’m sure you will find this section of their northern journey a relaxing experience. The intention was to go all the way to Hoo Brook Pasture and then onto Falling Sands Nature Area, but with an extreme overnight weather warning in place, I parked the herd in North Pasture for safety’s sake. We passed the Rhombus Field, Middle Wood, and the Flooded Wood Pasture. The quickly rising River Stour was to our immediate left.
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This video shows a honey bee swarm building a nest in a rotting tree stump on Wilden Marsh, which can spell disaster if the weather suddenly takes a turn for the worst. Autumn swarms can result in two depleted bee colonies being unable to muster enough honey for the winter. Without food, the bees are fighting a losing battle, often meaning the destruction of one or both nests/hives from starvation. Possibly, their only hope is for a local beekeeper to rescue them. I contacted our local bee group and was advised to leave them to take their chances with nature or cover the swarm with a piece of plywood.

I feel I have let too many honey bee swarms perish on Wilden Marsh through inaction on my part. I have decided to do something positive to improve the chances of this swarm making it through winter. The bees are exposed to all our weather can throw at them, and with the prospect of cold autumn/winter weather just around the corner, I made and fitted a protective wooden enclosure over the nest this morning using scrap pieces of wood from my workshop. Agitated and confused honey bees circled for quite some time, trying to work out what was happening, but they soon found a new route to their nest. I wouldn’t be concerned if this nest was high up in a tree, but it is exposed 300 mm to 600 mm from the ground and likely to be raided by badgers. 

I made this 10-minute long video to record my lowly attempt at helping protect the honey bee swarm from unfavourable weather.

Honey bees can survive freezing winter temperatures because mother nature has equipped them with highly developed survival mechanisms and strategies. Simply put, honey bees must create their own heat source and maintain a food supply inside the hive/nest to ensure they make it to spring. Sometimes, when bees get things wrong, they can benefit from human intervention: a theory that can lead to highly contested debates, I suspect.

The honey bees have their first artificial feed: I poured half a jam jar of white granulated sugar on a log, forming a sugar cone, immediately under the nest enclosure. I also secreted ten crab apples at various places within the structure. Two hours later, the bees had removed almost all the sugar. A few wasps also took advantage of the free sugar.

The air and ground around the nest were literally buzzing with industrious bees rushing to get their food stores laid down before the arrival of cold weather. I have been thinking of making solid sugar lollipops with a wire running through them to hang in the spaces between the logs and the wooden nest enclosure. Any advice on the practicality of feeding with solid sugar lollipops would be appreciated. I envisage a lollipop size of 25mm diameter by 100mm.

A little off-topic, but this is where I have been for the past week: on the edge of the Gann Estuary. It’s a water haven to almost rival Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve. I went along, across, and around the Gann Estuary in Dale; once with Gill and then with Dave. The video below shows some elements of these journeys:

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Mini Moo shows me where her calf is hidden, yesterday, and then introduces it to the herd. I have it on very good authority that Mini Moo has not been anywhere near a bull.

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I went out onto the marsh yesterday to see how the cattle were doing (Sunday 4th July) after moving them the short distance from the Swamp into Northern Corridor and Hoo Brook Corral on Saturday. It rained hard overnight and throughout the day, but there were dry spells. We had a few heavy rainstorms, but nothing horrendous to get excited over. It is usually always more sensible to take precautions during daylight than have someone out moving the herd in the middle of the night if an emergency develops. The River Stour can flood within a few hours if the rain is heavy and continuous enough upstream.

The weather on Sunday, in between the rain, was what I call threatening, so I went out on the marsh in shirt sleeves; it was that warm, and of course, the rain fell with a vengeance. Even though soaked to the skin, head to toe, I felt pleasantly warm – an experience to savour, then?

This video shows how happy and pleased the marsh, its cattle and I were to have the opportunity of frolicking in the pouring summer rain. After all, hot sun and clear summer days will return quickly – we all need water to function efficiently.

I made this video in two parts for fear of rambling on for too long. Part 2 gives an initial insight into the life and function of North Pasture and perhaps its relevance in today’s apparently ecologically minded political climate; after all, Wilden Marsh is no longer a working farm, but its ecology does have a place in today’s busy world. There are those that feel Wilden Marsh and its surrounding area would better serve the local community and our economy if its use was changed to allow residential and industrial estates to be built on it. The question is always: How do we prevent our green and protected areas and spaces from being developed for residential and industrial uses to the detriment of both our rare and common wildlife? This is the perpetual question to which I am always searching for an answer.

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