Bird Watching

Article reprint : Bird Watching & Wildlife

The meadow at Kingsmill Cottage

Photo above: A dramatic showing of wild flowers after the meadow was seeded. As the meadow matures, local plants are gaining the upper hand.

M e m b e r s h i p   M a t t e r s

 Reproduced courtesy of  Cornwall Wildlife Trust
 "Wild Cornwall" Issue 99 Spring 2006

There are so many ways in which Cornwall Wildlife Trust members help wildlife. In this article two relatively new members demonstrate how a hands-on approach at home can be of great benefit to nature conservation, even over a short space of time.

Four years ago, David and Valerie Taplin decided to devote their "retirement" to nature conservation and eco-friendly living. The couple moved to Kingsmill Farm, a 4.5 acre Tamar-side property with a house, holiday cottage, fields and woodland sloping down to a secluded creek. At low tide, a rich expanse of gleaming mud surrounds the winding Tamar, whereas at high tide the grassy peninsular at the bottom of the slope can become submerged.

The area lies within an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). "A lot of people think that having an SSSI restricts them" says Valerie, "But it can be an advantage. We were guided by English Nature to a great extent and given a lot of useful contacts." She and David set to work taking down fences and stripping topsoil before seeding their meadow with a cornfield mix. Other areas have been planted, mown at varying heights, scattered with log piles or left completely wild.

A tennis court, formerly surrounded by over 150 Leylandii trees, is now a rain-filled lake surrounded by a new bog area. The lake, already bringing in dragonflies and amphibians, is partly stocked using plants from a pond which was filled in by a local infant school.

New trees and shrubs are roughly 50% deciduous and 50% evergreen to provide year-round cover. Owls are particularly treasured residents of Kingsmill Farm, and the Taplins are taking part in the British Trust for Ornithology Tawny Owl Survey. One day Valerie saw that a baby owl had fallen from a tree, but left alone, it managed to climb back up the ivy-clad trunk. In another drama, a stoat cornered a baby rabbit on the patio, an adult rabbit ran at the stoat and a chase ensued. The stoat won out after 15 minutes.

The house looks traditional but is less than a decade old. "It was "recycled" using stone and timber from another building on the same site" explained Valerie. This is appropriate as the Taplins are keen recyclers. Pippistrelle bats roost in the roof and tits nest in the bathroom wall where there was a flue. A double nest box, lined with polystyrene for warmth, has an observation panel in the back of the bathroom cabinet, now blocked with nesting materials! Climbers and other planting, along with an impressive and increasing array of home-made nest boxes, encourage wildlife to make use of the buildings. "What we don't do also makes a difference", Valerie added. "We have no cat, so wildlife comes up close to the house."

David and Valerie have many ambitious plans for the future: "We want to look at alternative energy sources, such as photovoltaic panels and hybrid cars, Valerie & David Taplinand grow more of our own vegetables. We would like to learn more about creating wildlife corridors and contribute to wildlife records."

Meanwhile, bookings at the cottage are high, as the eco-friendly lifestyle encourages both human and wild visitors to come and stay.

Photo: Valerie and David Taplin.

Kingsmill Farm Holiday Cottage Cornwall      
Kingsmill Farm Holiday Cottage Cornwall      
tel: (+44) 01752 844 223      

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