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  1. Nature Reserve Update, Autumn 2018

    October 22, 2018 by Ant

    Our nature reserve is becoming successful with visitors and Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire taking a great part.
    Moth trapping records are rising, 25 species of butterflies have been recorded & grass snakes have returned (breeding in the unusual warm October weather – it’s been over 50 years since they were last here!).
    Our ponds are doing well, in spite of climate change with the hottest summer for many, many years. We have common newts, toads, frogs, many water beetles (some experts are coming next year to record them also our many different species of Damsel and Dragonfly). Biologists are also recording our diverse range of trees, shrubs and wild flowers.

    Hawkmoths: from left of picture…..Poplar Hawkmoth, 2 x Privet Hawkmoths, Lime Hawkmoth, & the Elephant Hawkmoth (the pink one!)


    My acrylic painting of Dave on poppy embankment 2018.

  2. Nature Reserve Update

    February 7, 2016 by Ant

    Throughout October/November 2015 volunteers from the Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire worked on tree felling on two areas of the South facing embankments.  This was a very demanding job which will ultimately produce a wonderful area for wildlife – particularly for the Chalk Hill Blue and Adonis Blue butterfly which were once seen here.  We are all working towards this by sowing Horseshoe Vetch and Kidney Vetch plus other plants that will encourage them.

    Volunteers, October 2015 East view after clearance

    In December 2015 three ponds were excavated on the Eastern side of the Railway Reserve.  These will complete the reserve enabling us to record so many other species such as Dragon Fly, Damsel Fly etc.

    2016 looks to be a very exciting year as we watch the Reserve develop.

    More trees, some of which were kindly supplied by the Woodland Trust, are being planted. Tree species will include Oak, Maple, Grey Willow, Goat Willow, Hawthorn and Wild Cherry. David is also planting various types of hedging and sowing more flower and grass seeds.

  3. The Railway Becomes a Nature Reserve!

    February 18, 2015 by Ant

    Firstly, during July 2014 my cousin and husband came down from Scotland and put their Lepidoptery skills to use. During our 3 night mothing experience we found a nationally rare moth called Waved Black – this was amazing news for us.

    Late Autumn, Lepidopterist David C.G. Brown, author of `Larger Moths of Warwickshire` and a representative of Warwickshire Wildlife, came to inspect our wildlife corridor. He was suitably impressed and organised the Warwickshire Annual Moth Count here in July this year. He suggested we name our Nature Reserve!

    So, we are now the proud owners of `The SMJ Nature Reserve` Cranhill! SMJ stands for the Stratford Midland Junction – the name of the railway line that used to run here. The last train to use the track ran in July 1965 – and we were there to see it!

    This April, ‘Warwickshire Wildlife’ butterfly expert Mike Slater is coming to inspect our flora and fauna and will hopefully be giving us some conservation advice too.

  4. Dwindling Bees – Abundant Butterflies!

    September 13, 2012 by Ant

    The last year has been a very difficult one, with heavy rain and other projects, (not of our making) delaying planting of the perennials etc., Now we have the results we have been waiting for these last 2 years. Butterflies – in abundance! We have seen all the varieties listed below – a bumper year!

    Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Comma, Peacock, Marbled White, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood, Common Blue, Brimstone, Large White and Large Skipper.

    The photo below shows Peacock butterflies on the buddleia and meadow flower…

    Bees have had a hard time and the continuing drop in numbers (so few we could have counted them this year!) continues to concern us.
    Even numbers of our solitary miner bees have dropped to a dozen or so.

  5. Our first planting of our ‘wild flower meadow’

    July 7, 2011 by Ant

    Growing wild flowers on an old railway line you may think would be easy. It is not! David has removed tons of ballast, (read more…)

  6. Planting Wild Flower Seeds.

    May 11, 2011 by Jean

    Owing to this being the driest spring period since 1910, seed- sowing has, until now, been unthinkable!   However, after a very labour intensive time for David, levelling & weeding (I know that sounds rather counter productive but certain weeds are perennials which can become a nuisance) he has sown annual seeds such as :- Corn  Marigold, Corn Poppy, Corncockle, Cornflower,Corn Chamomile mixed with annual cereals Bearded wheat and Barley.  We may sow Perennials  in the Autumn

  7. Thorn Apple

    September 22, 2010 by Jean

    September 2010

    Since felling the trees in December/March and planting our fruit trees for the bees, we have discovered many new varieties of wild flowers.   One very unusual plant we have never seen before is the Thorn Apple.  Poisonous, but truly amazing with a height and width of 4 feet (122cm)!  The thorn apples that develop are indeed handsome, measuring 3″ (8cm)!

  8. Planting Trees For The Bees

    June 22, 2010 by Jean

    The Trees

    We have planted 26 of them so far!  The entire area is going to be underplanted with plants the bees will love.  Hopefully next year we can encourage a Bee Keeper to leave a hive or two in the orchard area.

    The world shortage of bees, and particularly for us in the U.K.,  is a growing concern.  Universities over the U.k. are at present trying to find out exactly why there is such a worrying decline.  This year we have not seen one Honey Bee!  The Bumble Bees, although in plenty in our garden, are suffering from an internal mite.   We have found many dead Bumbles.  But other causes for the Honey Bee are now under scrutiny. e.g., modern farming methods.