Landscape & Garden Update – 6.10.17

I’m not sure if it is just me, but haven’t we enjoyed some dramatic skies this year? Maybe I’m just taking more time to look, or the weather is simply more theatrical than usual, but time and time again I have found myself standing back in awe of the cloudscape that clothes the landscape.

Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park

 Painterly Skies

At Compton Verney of course, being a designed landscape, the views are always impressive. When heavy clouds move and the sun beams through however, the architectural landscape can be transformed to an altogether different and breathtakingly beautiful level.

Compton Verney West Front

Wild Flower Areas

In these images you can see where we have been busy removing grass and dead perennial wild flower growth. In the wide open spaces we utilise agricultural cutting and baling machines, in these smaller areas however we choose to flail cut, and then rake off the cuttings. For certain, this work could be tackled by hired-in machinery, but this once-a-year activity does keep us more closely in touch with the progress and gradual improvement of the wild flower areas that we are nurturing – whilst it is hard work, it is never wasted time.

The cut areas may look shocked for a while, but in no time at all this, and other areas will be clothed in green and the toads and voles will return to once again live in peace NB, We’re careful to leave uncut areas for them to escape to whilst we work.

Wild Flower Cutting and Baling

Willow Tunnel

Elsewhere, the willow tunnel has received its annual trim and renovation. It takes approximately four days of pruning and tying-in to keep the structure intact, with a little inter-planting to ensure there are enough willow rods present to retain its strength. Over the last few years the height of the tunnel has increased somewhat, but I think this suits some grown-ups, who from my observations are those most likely to zoom through first – as with the zip-wire, no longer is this feature the domain of the little ones!

Willow Tunnel Pruning

Moth Recording

Below, I’m glad to say are some teasing images from the very first trial of our new Robinson moth trap. Now, this isn’t as some may presume a type of pest control; far from it. The moth trap was funded by Chris Carter, one of our Governors, as a very useful piece of kit that will help us to further understand the landscape at Compton Verney, and more specifically; the species that depend on it for their survival.

'Angle Shades' Pologophora meticulosa. Image by Arthur Owens
‘Angle Shades’ Pologophora meticulosa. Image by Arthur Owens.

As Chris says himself, “The main reason for supporting this activity was to contribute towards the building of records for every aspect of biodiversity at Compton Verney. Compton Verney’s records will contribute to national records which in turn feed into Government policy, towards safeguarding that part of our heritage“.

It is worth saying that in trapping moths we ‘simply’ place the light trap out overnight, and the moths are collected automatically as they drop down into the lower section of the trap. Each moth is then photographed for identification and released to go on about its business.

'Red Green Carpet Moth'
‘Red Green Carpet Moth’ Chloroclysta siterata. Image by Arthur Owens.

It soon becomes clear, as Chris says, that “moths are not plain brown things that annoy you by flying into your bathroom and eating the carpets; seen close up they are beautiful in pattern and colour: an obvious starting point for art. These moths will have completed their whole life cycle in and around the park, feeding as caterpillars on plants in the meadow or the margins or wherever – thus reinforcing the message that vegetation isn’t just something you have to keep cutting down but may be a vital part of the whole biodiversity picture”.

We certainly hope to establish a regular regime of trapping and recording, supported by our resident moth and butterfly expert Arthur Owens, and before long we hope to introduce some sessions where visitors can come and see the activity in progress.

Heritage Open Days at Compton Verney
Grounds Volunteer Dick and Grounds man Adam discuss the finer points of 18th Century field surveying…

Heritage Open Days

It may be a month back, but it’s certainly worth covering our involvement on September 8 in Heritage Open Days. Whilst across site there were tours and additional activities, the grounds team ‘upgraded’ their involvement with an altogether different display on the south lawn.

Providing a ‘Then & Now’ display, we brought out a range of antique tools for comparison alongside their modern day equivalents. Yes, there were a few biscuits consumed and a mug or two of gardeners’ tea, but many lively discussions were enjoyed with visitors about the work we do and about what we are trying to achieve. So much so that I’m considering a FAQ’s article in the very near future!

Compton Verney Sunset

And Finally

I thought I’d finish this article with a closing-day image, with the sun setting beyond the gallery. For certain, whilst that working day was coming to an end, another was certain to follow with another staggering array of challenges and opportunities in the park at Compton Verney. If you’ve visited, you’ll understand how special and loved the landscape is to all who pass through, and if you haven’t visited… then web-search #CVgrounds for some images of what awaits…

Thanks for reading, do please share and spread the love for the landscape at Compton Verney.

Regards

Gary Webb, Head of Landscape & Garden at Compton Verney.

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