New Contender For The South Marsh Territory

On my way back through the marsh, I came face to face with foxy again. This fox is new to the marsh and looks in really good condition.

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New fox on the marsh.

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Foxy Games

Yesterday the cattle moved themselves out of the Orchid Field and back into the Rhombus Field, so I moved them on into the Tenant Farmer’s Field.

In the TF Field this morning, I found this fox playing roundup with the herd. The cattle were totally oblivious to the fox’s game.

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This fox doesn’t want me to join in his game.

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Watching Otters

I was down on the marsh this morning, otter watching. The River Stour is low, flat calm, and fairly clear. Six otters swam in circles, underwater. I think there is a holt in the riverbank, because the otters were disappearing under the bank vegetation and not coming up for air. Now and again one would surface, but there was no indication of when or where, and their time on the surface was minimal. Nice to see them, though.


Otter surfacing


Otter diving

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Otter swimming


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Middle Marsh


A fence between four fields.

A fence between four fields: Tenant Farmer’s Field to the left, South Riverside Pasture to the right, Rhombus Field to the far left, and Orchid Field to the far right. The white building is Marsh Farm house, and in the background to the left is Hoo Wood.

Middle Marsh begins left of this fence.

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South Riverside Pasture And Reed Beds

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South Riverside Pasture and reed beds

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Water Voles And A Cautionary Wilden Marsh Tale


Water Vole

A chainsaw bursting into life, at around 8.30am yesterday morning, caused the cattle to lift their ears and turn their heads. The herd had finally moved itself on from the Orchid Field’s Swampy Bottom to the northern end of the compartment, close to the Rhombus Field gate. I was bent over with my Silky, cutting willow saplings, but stood to home-in on the sound’s location, which seemed to be the South Riverside Pasture reed beds, east of the central drainage ditch. Two sparrow hawks streaked overhead, tumbling and arguing on a flight path to Middle Wood, Six black, orange beaked cormorants looked down on the River Stour from their power cable perches, and a couple of buzzards circled high above on a rising thermal.

I wandered off south across the mire. Colin Cross’s pick-up truck was parked on the Riverside Pasture. My mind must have been wandering in an altogether different direction, because I came to my senses standing right on the edge of the western mud trap. My advice is always: avoid the eastern and western Orchid Field mud traps at all costs. I think both traps are associated with underground springs. Choosing what I thought was the best route within grabbing distance of a large willow tree, I picked my way around its roots. It occurred to me at the time that I shouldn’t be doing this, but I was now only a step and a half away from firmer ground and safety. I held on to a stout branch for support, pulled down harder to steady myself, and it snapped. I sank slowly into the mud, feeling a little like the saluting captain going down with his ship. Fine, glutinous mud poured in and filled my wellies.

When I felt water rising above my knees, I leant forward and my shins made contact with a sunken solid object – a tree root I think. Canted at an impossible angle against the root, I was no longer sinking. I removed my jacket and threw it to firmer ground. The weight of my torso acting against the fulcrum of my root locked shins, was sufficient to overcome the trap’s grip and my legs broke free of the mud.

The moral of this tale is: I should heed my own advice and stay well clear of the Orchid Field’s mud traps. However, this is not the first time I’ve fought the ferocity of the traps’ grip. On each previous occasion, I’ve needed to returned home to shower and change my clothes immediately afterwards, as will be the case today. Even the marsh cattle know they are to avoid the Orchid Field’s mud traps; they’ve learned to cross the compartment through the middle of the field – the herd obviously has more common sense than I.

Pulling my jacket on, I made my way through Swampy Bottom to its boundary with the South Riverside Pasture reed beds. Colin was cutting willow scrub some ten metres beyond the fence, but the whining chainsaw and his ear mufflers prevented him from hearing my shouts, screams and frantic whistles. Eventually I caught his attention and he waded over for a chat. The thick vegetation saved me from having to explain why I was in such a mess.

Collin found quite a few field mouse day-nests in the reed beds, and possible indications of water vole activity. I found water voles at this very same location on the reed bed bank of the central drainage ditch back in 2014, so Colin’s findings could be exciting news indeed.

Such is life on Wilden Marsh!

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Wilden Marsh Tuesday Workday


I had an hour lie-in this morning: a dry run for the next two month’s cattle free marsh. I spent most of my early morning extra respite trying to stop myself getting out of bed – I will get used to it.

It’s a volunteer’s Tuesday workday on Wilden Marsh today. As I load tools into my car boot, a dark and threatening sky looks down on me, but rain isn’t forecast; I hope the experts are right. I prefer a crisp day and clear blue skies, but who doesn’t! Today’s task is lopping, topping and cropping willow and alder trees and scrub in the wet Hillary Road Field, and around South Pool sluice where the fierce black mink lives. The temperature has been hovering around freezing early mornings recently, so I’m not taking any chances: I’m wearing my thermals.

My first port of call this morning is the Orchid Field to check the pedigree herd. I must remember that Terry Bull and TWB were removed from the marsh yesterday afternoon, or I’ll be mud-plugging all over Middle Marsh looking for them.  Apart from the remaining cattle not wanting to be in the Orchid Field, they were otherwise fine; although, very vocal. Wayne and Waynetta stood together on the top end hard standing, with the rest of the herd scattered around the swampy bottom. Wayne and Waynetta bellowed instructions and all the cattle were in front of me at the gate within five minutes, shouting: “See yoose laddie, lit oos oot aya thes sockin’ dreich feld.”

10 am and we are lugging tools, stools, and rucksacks along the river bank to South Pool Oak, under which we will rest and eat our packed lunches. Far from being cold, it was very mild, 13 degrees, on the marsh and layers of clothing were shed pretty quickly. Rain did stay away all day.

More lopping, topping and cropping in the Orchid Field on the next Sunday workday, 26th November, so make sure you wear your wellies.

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