Peter Oakenfull is part of the team that maintains the Mill grounds and its wildlife. He's kindly agreed to follow up from his last blog 'Wildlife at Ramblers Holidays HQ' with this insight into life at our Lemsford Mill base.
Spring has turned to summer in the tranquil garden at Ramblers Worldwide Holidays HQ in Lemsford Village in Hertfordshire. Like any garden that has been planned well the subtle changes as we move through the calendar year can so often go unnoticed as the bright greens of spring vegetation mellow to the darker shades of mid-summer.
The wildlife though is full on and very noticeable, particularly bird song as adults pair up for the breeding season. It was good to see the returning swallows once again, twisting and turning over the river as they catch insects following their long journey from Africa where the spent the winter. The old Victorian cart shed, with its open front provides the ideal nest site for them where they construct their cup shaped nests as they have done for many years.
The diversity of habitat found within any garden is key to drawing in wildlife and not many can boast a river dissecting the middle of the lawns as the River Lea does in this one. The river Lea is home to many species, starting with the smallest of river invertebrates that are food for several species of fish, such as chub, barbel, carp, dace, perch and of course the minnow, the latter, a species that has seen a massive decline recently in its numbers.
Then of course there are the mammals of the wetland environment. The once common water vole has not been seen recently which is partly down to an unwanted predator, the escapee and non-native American mink which is recorded locally. Of course one group of small mammals, the shrews and one in particular the water shrew have become local celebrities since Lemsford Springs Nature Reserve was featured on the BBC’s Springwatch programme in May.
Water birds are in abundance at Lemsford and the most gracious of course is the mute swan whose presence will enhance any river scene. The ever present coots and moorhens are now so used to us that they barely run off the lawns when the mower heads in their direction and take a more leisurely attitude as they pop back in the water.
A female mallard that has been around the site for several years becomes very secretive during the breeding season and we will often find her sitting tight, incubating her eggs on a nest constructed against a wall deep in a corner of one of the shrub borders.
If I am pressed to make a choice for a particular favourite I must go for the kingfisher. With its flash of turquoise blue that passes in a glimpse preceded by its sweet call; it is a great memory picture to keep. Mind you if we are really lucky it will perch in full view in the old Laxton’s apple tree next to the Mill Race while scanning the shoals of small chub for an easy lunch.