Saturday, 25 January 2014

The Amphibians are loving the wet weather.

Its raining every day, often all day, and much of this county seems to be underwater. The national press have got wind of it and the plight of those living in a shallow sea on the Somerset levels is now on the TV each evening, and quite rightly so. The county's amphibians are, I am sure, delighted with this state of affairs and I spent several fun hours with teachers and children in the school pond on Saturday, removing reed clumps. I didn't do this last year, not wishing to disturb the wildlife, but with all of the open water gone and the pond at risk of becoming a waterless bog garden I had arranged to carve up some of the plant growth and we pulled the heavy clumps onto the side of the bank to let creatures crawl back into the water. Stepping tentatively in the pond I used a net to move anything in the way to avoid injury to wildlife and the water was already bristling with spring activity. Newts were the dominant large creature, with some year old juveniles sporting gills, many smooth newts both males and gravid females and quite a number of beautiful male great crested newts. The size difference between the great crested and smooth newts is apparent in the photographs and it's so exciting to see so many of these wonderful rare creatures. There were also a number of young frogs and although a predictably small number of insect species, in January, there were water scorpions and dragonfly larvae. We carefully returned everything back to the water and left the pond with a variety of weed areas, planting and some open water predictably rippling under the impact of the falling rain.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Somerset Underwater

A poor phone camera image of the lands beneath the Polden Ridge to the South of our village beyond Greinton.

 Huge areas of the Somerset levels around us are again underwater. We're lucky to be safe up on Polden Ridge and although the Meare side of the village is a bit flooded, the Taunton side is underwater for miles and miles. The back road via Burrowbridge was underwater for weeks, less than a year ago, and my heart goes out to the house-owners and businesses that have been tidying up and rebuilding since. Muchelney is completely isolated and North Curry and other local villages now sit within a shallow sea of sunken cars and lines of pollarded willows that now define the hidden roads and field edges. In years past this landscape flooded regularly but with the drains and drainage of the last century we have all become used to a land of roads and houses, but with the recent wet winters the floodplaines have returned to their pattern of seasonal immersion and the huge expanse of flooded valley now stretches out beneath the low sun of a winter sky.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

No Mammoth's today.

 A great family walk at East Runton on the hunt for mammoth teeth. All full of hope that we might find evidence of ice age mammals after the recent storms and tidal surges and after my lucky find of a tooth back in May when we camped here. The cliffs were clearly still on the move, with fresh falls of mud and rocks as we watched, and so any hope of exploring the recent rockfalls for treasure was abandoned and we contented ourselves with a search amongst the tideline pebbles and rockpools. With eyes to the ground we walked along the coast and picked up belemnites, the children returning with well over 150 by the time we got back the van and a warming cream tea in the wonderful Cliftonville Hotel along the coast in Cromer.