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Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea)

RagwortThe ragwort flowering season is now almost over, and we have been removing as much as we can before the seeds set and spread across the farmland and woods. Although our sheep are hardly threatened by eating ragwort in bales of hay or straw, it is deadly when ingested as it causes liver failure, it is such a prolific weed that it will eventually colonise almost any non-cultivated area if left alone. Rather than have it do this and make everything look yellow, we are trying to eliminate it and leave more traditional native weeds in place and dominant.

I am a zealous ragwort puller myself. I find it satisfying physical work and have noticed that fewer plants grow each year in the areas I have worked on. But we have paid students also to pull it, and they seem to like the work too. We plan where they are to go in advance based on reported sightings, provide them with gloves and let them loose. I just hope they do not love the job so much that they leave a few plants to seed so they can look forward to more work next year.

From time to time I have mentioned my concern about ragwort to officials from Natural England. They are less concerned as they say it is valued as a habitat for a number of invertebrates, including the caterpillar of the Cinnabar moth. But ragwort is listed in the Weeds Act 1959 for good reasons, and so I shall continue to attack it here. But, just when I though we were getting on top of the problem, I found some growing on the roof, so I may be busy for some time yet! 

See also: www.defra.gov.uk/publications/2011/03/15/pb11050-ragwort-disposal-guidance/

JH-B  September 2011

Big Chill

Deer Park ViewEastnor Park

As we prepare for the Big Chill which is taking place in the Park and on surrounding land between 7th & 9th August, a friend has sent me a quotation from the letter of Henry James to Charles Eliot Norton, written at the time James was staying in Malvern in March 1870 trying to recover his health after an extended visit to Italy.

He wrote: “I walked away across the country to the ancient town of Ledbury, an hour of the way across the deer-cropped slopes & thro’ the dappled avenues of Eastnor Park…,a vast & glorious domain & as immensely idle & charming & uncared for as anything in Italy”.

It is nice to have had a mention, if perhaps not entirely a flattering one. Although much of the Park remains deliberately as wild and uncared for as we and Natural England would like it to be, some of the area covered by the distinguished author would not match his description, as the image shows. It is tidily mown and awaiting thousands of visitors. However, readers can follow the changes in the Park over the next ten days and beyond on the Big Chill blog spot: http://bigchilldiary.blogspot.com/2009/07/looking-good.html written by veteran journalist, Simon Gandolfi. I hope the after images look as good as the before images.

JH-B
30th July 2009