The field to the one side has been acquired by Kent County Council. They purchased the field because it had, at one time, been an illegal refuse site, which continued to spew out methane long after it became disused.
I don’t pretend to know what it is they've done to the site, but it involved landscaping and the reinstatement of monitoring borehole pipes that rise out of the mound. A tanker comes around periodically to collect whatever liquid soup (leachates) has fermented within the hill.
The idea was to turn the landfill site into an area where wild life would be free to flourish with minimum intervention and to restore the trees that once grew there. They planted wild flower seeds, with the promise that trees would be added later.
The first year it was alive with new growth, the hill was covered in what looked like clover. I saw stoats, chase each other in and out of the shelter of Teasels. In the evening, bats would flit and swoop from the trees at the edge of the field.
As a protected area, it showed great potential.
Now it looks like a barren wasteland.
To the other side is a well established conservation area which is essentially a copse of Hawthorn and Blackthorn, not remarkable in itself but with minimum management from a gem of a guy who lives on the mobile home site that sits between these two conservation areas, it is a wildlife sanctuary, which at times takes my breath away with it’s beauty.
Every season has its own distinct identity. Right now the Ox-eye daisies are dying off and the Scabious is coming into its own, which is good news for the exquisite Cinnabar moths that flock to the flower heads and are seemingly so intoxicated that they will happily allow themselves to be lifted up on my finger for closer inspection then gently replaced.
Other wild flowers in season are clouds of Hedge Bedstraw, Bird’s Foot Trefoil forming a yellow carpet, Hairy St. John’s Wort and wild Marjoram. Myriads of other flowers dot the field and down the bank into the grass verge, together with tall wafting grasses, the names of which I learn and almost instantly forget.
The jewels in the crown and at the moment at their zenith, are the Pyramid orchids, a protected species as are the Roman snails which inhabit both fields. The orchids are a master class of design, each tiny petal of the pyramid forming the distinctive orchid shape and the grass verge is awash with their purple heads.
The rabbits that live here are numerous and although wild are cautious but unafraid. We have foxes, I've see the daily evidence but have only ever seen one in person. Pheasants that have escaped the gun take refuge in our field and the woods behind and butterflies and moths, too numerous to mention by name, even if I knew them, cavort over their chosen flowers. The bird song in the field, especially at mating time, rises above the noise of traffic on the main road and there are so many different varieties, all living together with minimum squabbling. I've moved slow worms and our special snails to the safety of undergrowth and we have lizards living in piles of rocks placed to catch the early morning sun.
So why the difference between the two fields? Easy to answer and it frustrates me that the council don’t get it. The only maintenance our field has is a path, the width of a sit-on mower that winds its way around the field so that residents of the mobile home park can enjoy the beauty without encroaching on its wild, untouched areas. On the other site, the spring growth of wild flowers was just coming to an end when the man with the industrial sized mower arrived and decimated the entire area, before it had the opportunity to set the seed which would ensure next year’s growth and killing the summer flowers just emerging from the ground. I'm angry because if they don’t permit the natural flora and fauna to become established I can almost guarantee that it will eventually become a field of Ragwort. I've seen it happen before on other sites that have been cleared for development before being abandoned when the market for new homes went squit. We have some Ragwort in our field, it has its place because it’s essential for the caterpillars of the Cinnabar moth, and in late summer they cover the plant with their distinctive striped bodies. Having gorged themselves they become too toxic for birds to eat.
What do you think? Shall I write to the council? Is there any point? Will anyone want to listen? What would you do?
Cinnabar moth Ragwort Pyramid orchids