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Living Lawnmowers

Living Lawnmowers at Heather Farm Wetlands Centre

Living Lawnmowers

I went for a short walk with the hubby at Heather Farm yesterday to capture the fabulous skies over the Autumnal landscape for today’s Fotospeed challenge. I actually ended up with added extras to the scene that I had had in mind! The Horsell Common Preservation Society (HCPS) is based at the Heather Farm Wetland Centre near Woking in Surrey. You can see the building that they use, alongside the cafe, at the back of the landscape within my photo. The Society’s landholdings include 916 acres of high forest, woodland, meadows and lowland heath that form a part of the internationally important Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area. Heather Farm riverside meadows and wetlands were developed as a SANG (Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace), which provides a less fragile landscape for people to enjoy walking through. Part of the site is now a much loved dog walking route. Dogs also receive a warm welcome, water, biscuits and towels at the Water’s Edge cafe! Owners are being asked to be extra careful with their four-legged friends at the moment. Within the fenced-off wetland area, Badger Face Welsh Mountain sheep are grazing the grasslands as part of the natural land management and conservation work done by HCPS. Larger areas of grassland within the common are grazed by Aberdeen Angus cattle. These living lawnmowers are the most natural, environmentally friendly way to manage grasses and scrub, maintaining the habitat for a large variety of wildlife. They’re also really very attractive sheep to see! On Saturday the ewes got to meet a rather important new member of this little flock. His name is Hector and you can see him just off-centre in my image. Once all the ewes have fallen pregnant this winter, the farmer who owns them will collect them from the site, so they can lamb safely in the Spring. For now they seem to be greatly enjoying their job and visitors are definitely enjoying them!

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Scottish Wildcat – At Threat Of Extinction

Female Scottish Wildcat

Scottish Wildcat – At Threat Of Extinction

It’s very hard for researchers to know the exact number of these amazing cats left wild in Scotland, as they have hybridised with feral domestic-cat populations over the years. It is estimated that there are now perhaps only thirty five true wildcats left and they are at imminent threat of extinction. It breaks my heart! This beautiful female and her three kittens live at the British Wildlife Centre, near Godstone, in Surrey. Such a great place! I visited last week with my friend Nikki and godchildren, Rosie and James. Rosie loves all cats and the wildcats hold a special place in her heart too. It was wonderful to explore our native wildlife with them, whilst giving young James another photography tutorial! I have a few images of some of the other residents, but the wildcat topped my Twitter poll for what people wanted to see for today’s Wex Mondays challenge. I’m very glad to share a bit of their story with you, but for more information please visit the British Wildlife Centre wildcat page here. The centre does some wonderful work in conservation, rescue & rehabilitation and in education. It’s well worth a visit and I would really encourage everybody to support the amazing work that they do!

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Blue Monday: Spanish Belles

Spanish Bluebell

Blue Monday: Spanish Belles

I photographed these Spanish Bluebells in my parents garden on Easter Sunday for my Blue Monday post and entry for Fotospeed’s weekly photo challenge. The Spanish Bluebell is very pretty but as a non-native species has become an increasing threat to the native British Bluebells in our woodlands. I’m hoping to capture some of those beauties soon! One of the ways that the Spanish variety has been spread to woodland areas has been in the ilegal fly-tipping of garden waste. They can be cross-pollinated with the native species creating hybrids that change future generations forever! Please be careful with your garden waste this year. More information can be found at The Woodland Trust.