Summer at Eycott by Oscar Adams

Over the summer I have become a little more acquainted with Eycott’s most prominent inhabitant, the Belted Galloways.

Their grazing helps otherwise overwhelmed vegetation to flourish which then benefits wildlife – a role naturally filled by large herbivores. They are always a welcome sight on the hills, even when I have to walk well out of my way to not disturb any speculative new mothers (I said I had no beef with them but I think they took it the wrong way). Twelve beautiful new additions to the herd have been born onto Eycott Hill this year and a couple more are still expected, they calve unaided out in the field so please give lone mothers privacy!

It has been a delight to see the construction of three new bridges, the two on the western side enable a continuous route from the Mungrisdale area right through the reserve, completing the public right of way designation.

A Belted Galloway on Eycott © Oscar Adams

A Belted Galloway on Eycott © Oscar Adams 

The hay meadows have been awash with many flowers in beautiful bloom, this year was my first time seeing them and to say I was impressed would be an understatement. Just six years ago I have heard the fields were bare and provided little more than sustenance for sheep. Through power harrowing, seeding and plug planting the fields have been transformed into the wondrous success story they are today.

Every year the meadows are monitored to gauge species diversity and prominence. Doing this involved getting very up close and personal with every grass and flower that inhabits the fields. Teasing apart the differences between grasses was not something I had done before but I now feel as though I know my Yorkshire fog from my sweet vernal grass (maybe). With some much appreciated help from seasoned experts and despite the unseasonable grizzly weather, the monitoring was completed and shows a continued improvement in the meadows! Another positive outcome are the insects – an invertebrate survey has shown an increase of pollinators in the meadows which is great news.

Buzzing around yarrow © Oscar Adams

Buzzing around yarrow © Oscar Adams

The survey also demonstrated that the dugout ponds along Naddles beck and in the meadows have been colonised by many aquatic invertebrates and dragonflies, including the fantastic bright blue cigar shaped broad-bodied chaser. The most exciting find, however, would have to be a singular marsh-fritillary butterfly, it must have come quite a way from one of the re-introduction sites in Cumbria, and it would be truly remarkable if this threatened species were to populate Eycott Hill.

Most recently its been great to get out and get some maintenance done. I would like to sincerely thank those who came at short notice to fix a hole in the viewpoint’s wall, and to those who have come along to help slip-proof the new bridge and take care of the young woodlands. 

That's all for now, thank you for reading, 

Oscar 

Bellflower at Eycott © Oscar Adams

Bellflower at Eycott © Oscar Adams

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Work at Eycott Hill Nature Reserve is possible thanks to National Lottery Players, and support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.