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Country diary: Small-scale rewilding already pays off | Environment
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Country diary: Small-scale rewilding already pays off | Environment

A couple of brightly dressed scarecrows draw the eye.

AFar from the river Tamar’s pale reedbeds, and leafless woods, Viverdon Down’s ground is more open for gales and torrential rains. Cattle are moved indoors from sodden pastures. Puddles are formed on winter corn-sown fields.

This enclosure of land was rewilded in the last two-years partly to create new habitat. It will also slow the runoff towards a boggiest, most snipe-friendly corner that is four miles from the tidal stream. New ponds have been constructed, whose water levels vary depending on the amount of rainfall and springs. The ever-growing thickening of bushy hedgebanks grows higher, partially buffering the sound from traffic commuting to Plymouth and sheltering creeping Wrens that seek insects among the blackthorns, hazel catkins and trailing brambles.

Young tree whips were watered meticulously in the first year after planting to keep immature roots from drying. Tree guards against nibbling bunnies are regularly inspected, uprooted after storms, and heightened as needed. It is hard work to care for new trees. The most vigorous of the 1,000 trees planted were cherry, willow, and birch. They seem to have been left unaffected by browsing deer. A few brightly dressed scarecrows may draw the eye and remind visitors roe to pay attention to the tree guardians.

A couple of brightly dressed scarecrows draw the eye.
A couple of brightly dressed scarecrows catch the eye. Photograph: Jack Spiers

The afternoon sun sets behind the narrow Down Lane, lighting up the crisscrossing contrails. Rooks flutter overhead before heading towards the old nests located in a wooded area near Ashton. There is another commotion as a mob this years lambs make their way up the ramp of an agricultural lorry and into a field of nourishing greens, kale, and turnips. Half of the lambs should be at a suitable weight before Christmas to be sent to the abattoir. The quality of carcasses and their genetics will be checked. This will allow us to identify which rams have produced the best meat.

Before the gate is closed and the lorry drives off, an opportunist bird hops on to the trampled verge, looking for food before the darkness begins.

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