From the Tranquil Otter you may just be able to make out wind turbines close by; these are at Watchtree Nature Reserve, a former disused airfield and now the biggest man made nature reserve in Europe. Well worth a look.
Nick has been managing the woods around the Lough with help from the Forestry Commission. Ours and the adjoining woods includes ancient woodlands; and a large number of trees were planted before the Second World War.
Late last year I noticed what seemed like a coding system on some of the trees: an orange P, dots on some trees and tried to work out what these meant. How I expected to know about woodland management beats me? I had to find out and did not to have to go far; a quick conversation with Nick was enough.
It turns out that our woods had not been managed for some time and required some TLC with some pollarding and coppicing. However it is important to get the timing right; that is in the winter when the sap is down and there are no nesting birds to disturb.
What we are doing in effect is to remove some of the branch cover and let light into the woods to encourage more ground cover plants and also to sustain the bugs and beetles that are part of the food chain for the local bird life.
The orange P is for pollarding - we take the upper branches of a tree off and the tree dies standing up. I can hear a "why"? We do this to allow certain trees to die standing up by ring-barking, or girdling, these trees, that is, cutting them all the way round the lower trunk so that they provide over 50 years shelter and food for a huge variety of grubs and beetles. The bugs and beetle in turn are food for woodpeckers and tree-creepers and mammals like shrews that feed on them....
Today we felt the force of nature when we woke up to choppy waters, trees swaying and wind whistling through the trees.
There was the inevitable re-arrangement of garden furniture, including the chicken run. As a result, our cockerel and two hens enjoyed a day on the town, experiencing a ‘free-range’ lifestyle in the garden. Normally the hens are let out after they have laid their daily egg; today we shall have an egg search around the garden.
A few days ago I found myself watching a lovely red squirrel bouncing around the lawn. Speaking to Mrs Harrison in Dunnock Lodge today, I was told that she too had seen a red squirrel outside her lodge, as well as a woodpecker. She also updated me on the antics of the chaffinch that was attacking the car window a week or so ago and has now taken to attacking its reflection in the window of Dunnock Lodge.
Friday at last and now that we are in British Summer Time, the ice cream man is back. As I had been busy chatting to Mr and Mrs H I missed out on my ice cream.
Nick and Mike have been working diligently to clear the Canadian Pond Weed and the silt on which it grows, from the Lough, which is both a blessing and a nuisance.
A blessing because it releases oxygen into the water, the absence of which can be fatal to the ecosystem and a nuisance because it can make it difficult to row and fish (and swim for the madder of us!) in parts of the lake.
With the lake clear from ice and weed the boys have been rowing; and Jon is able to row to the far side of the Lough. Ijaz just likes to jump in; seeing the boy in the water made Nick so jealous that he decided to restart his daily swimming regime, commencing with a micro dip.
One advantage of this is that Nick was able to say that he has swam with the otters. The other is that he can report that much of the Lough has regained its gravel bottom.
We had our first encounter with a hedgehog when it got imprisoned in the Grey Squirrel trap the other day. Timid little thing didn’t want to come out of the trap and clung on for dear life when Nick and the boys tried to ease him out gently. In the end he had to be shaken out, and then he curled into a ball and rolled away.
There are both red and grey squirrels on site at the Tranquil Otter. I have seen both with my own eyes. Not to anthropomorphise, I have seen the red squirrel bounce across the lawn presenting a pretty picture and the grey squirrel head butt the living room window.