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Nature Notes by Tim Lee

In the absence of a Mortimer Voices newsletter, we are publishing local resident Tim Lee’s regular nature notes here instead…

The Mallard duck is nervously watching over her brood of seven ducklings as they dart back and forth across the slow moving river, busily chasing the insects flitting about on the water surface. Startled by the sudden movement of a harmless hare moving through the long grass on the river bank, she gives the alarm call and instantly, the ducklings race to her side for safety. She leads them off amongst the upright stems of yellow flag iris growing in the water until she is sure that the coast is clear.

Back in march, with her dapper mate, she selected her nest site in the fork of the old willow tree. In a storm two winters ago, a branch split away from the tree, exposing a sheltered hollow where she would lay the clutch of olive green eggs. Each evening, she carefully covered the eggs in the warm down plucked from her breast to insulate the nest and with her mate, flew to a secluded pool nearby to wash, feed and stretch her legs.

On her return, the moisture on her chest feathers helped keep the eggs internal membrane soft and allow the ducklings to penetrate through when its time to hatch. After 28 days of this routine, she can hear the ducklings peeping call from inside the eggs and feel them chipping at the shells with the tiny ‘tooth’ at the end of their beaks, designed for this moment.

Within 24 hours, they have all hatched, dried and are fidgeting beneath her. She knows its time to get them to the relative safety of the river. At first light, she flies down beneath the tree and calls softly, encouraging them to follow. The ducklings fall to the ground but there is always a reluctant one that needs extra encouragement! Together at last, she makes her way through the grass – each blade is a challenge to these black and yellow bumble bee like bundles of fluff but they’ve spent a month growing inside an egg and just jumped ten feet, so they’re not about to give up now!

Tumbling down the river bank, they are instantly expert swimmers, bobbing about like corks and taking in their new world. Inquisitiveness and instinct drives them to search for the high protein insect life that will transform those that survive, into fledglings. They will be able to fly in 60 days but until then, mum has an anxious time protecting them from the many predators that both she and they will face.

These are difficult times but connecting with nature is recognised as having a positive impact on our physical and mental well being. If you can get out there is so much to see and experience locally. Engage all your senses, sit quietly and watch for a moment, listen to the buzz and hum of insect life and birdsong, look at the clouds moving, smell the heady scent of hawthorn blossom and wild garlic after a rain shower, dabble your toes in a cool stream, look at the stars….there are many ways to enjoy and connect with nature, perhaps think of it as a tonic for the soul!

 

Message from Carole Gandy – County Councillor

This has been the strangest few months I have ever experienced and I suspect that for some you have found new interests and the opportunity to relax more and appreciate the wonderful countryside we have around us. For me, although I am attending regular Zoom meetings which I have found quite tiring at times, it has meant that as I have not had to spend half my day travelling to and from Hereford and that I too have had more time to appreciate this beautiful County. Barry and I have done numerous walks in North Herefordshire whilst at the same time being able to report missing steps on stiles and in some cases missing way markers.

For many of you involved in the community groups, the village hall and the churches this has been a difficult time, you do what you do in order to provide a service and a social meeting place for local residents and this has been taken away from you. Times ahead will be challenging as you work your way through the reams of guidance which changes often in order to be able to once again provide that service.

I must thank all those volunteers who have throughout the pandemic worked so hard in getting shopping and prescriptions or just offering a listening ear, for those who have been shielded, your work has been much appreciated. As someone who volunteered a lot in my earlier life, I know how rewarding this can be and I do hope that some of you will continue after the pandemic as there are always those who due to their frailty or other circumstances need continuing support. I would also like to convey my thanks to those businesses in Wigmore along
with the Community shop who have adapted their way of working in order to support the more vulnerable in Wigmore and the surrounding villages. I know that this has in many cases been a costly exercise but it is greatly appreciated. The Wigmore area  attracts many tourists and it is good to see them coming back and hopefully spending their money in our local businesses.
You will have read that there was a major outbreak of Covid-19 at a vegetable picking and packing farm in Mathon. I am pleased to report that this appears to have now been cleared up and it was contained within the farm. I do however suspect that over the coming months we shall see similar outbreaks in other parts of Herefordshire. However, as a County we have been very fortunate and so far, our numbers of confirmed cases has been lower as a percentage than most other parts of the country.

There was a special Full Council Meeting on the 4 th August which agreed to borrow about £4.5 million to repair flood damaged road. This will hopefully deal with roads in Mortimer Ward which were damaged by the floods earlier in the year and have still not been repaired.

Working with HNT, Plant Life and Verging on Wild, Balfour Beatty have identified 36 verges on C & U roads which due to their potential natural beauty have had a sign erected stating DO  NOT CUT YET and these will be cut just once when the wild flowers have seeded. These areas are not in places where there would be issues of safety. This is a trial and is in operation across the county.
Balfour Beatty are looking at a Cut and Collect trial taking place which they know is something parish council’s want to see. They do have to however to look at the cost of providing extra equipment which would be required to collect the grass up, whilst recognising the harm it can do, particularly to horses.
The parish councillors of Pipe Aston and Elton are working hard with my support to try to develop some ideas for improving pedestrian safety through these villages and the Parish Council as a whole is looking at various ways to make Bury Lane Playing Field more attractive.

Please do not hesitate to contact me at carole.gandy@herefordshire.gov.uk or telephone 01568 780583  if you have a problem which you wish to raise with me and I will be happy to discuss. 

Keep Safe Carole

CANCELLED – Mortimer Parish VE Day Celebrations

Due to the threat of the on-going Covid-19 crisis it has been decided that the VE Day celebration event to be held in Wigmore Village Hall over the weekend of 8th-10th May must be cancelled.

Most forecasts by HMG, the Medical and Science leaders indicate that we will still be dealing with major issues for months. That being the case, we cannot proceed with the significant amount of planning required for the proposed event. If there are any positive changes in HMG recommendations then we can have a look at what we have and see what may be possible but for the moment please assume no event will be held.

 

CANCELLED – Wigmore and District Gardening Club Speaker

Due to the threat of Covid-19 the talk by guest speaker Ros Bissell from Moors Meadows Garden due to be held at Wigmore Village Hall this Thursday March 19th @7:30pm has been cancelled.

Apologies for the late notice but these are extraordinary circumstances.

 

Exhibition – Herefordshire Life Through a Lens

9th April to 18th April – Herefordshire Life Through a Lens – Photographs from the Derek Evans Studio Archive 1940’s – 1970’s

The PHOTOS is the culmination of the three-year Herefordshire Life Through a Lens project, and this multi-venue exhibition of photographs represents the first major retrospective of the Derek Evans Studio collection ever to be held. Many of the images have never been seen outside Derek’s dark room, or been exhibited for over 50 years. Catcher Media now brings a ‘bite size’ exhibition to both Leominster and Kington Libraries.

Enjoy a rare chance to get up close and personal with these fantastic photographs.

Message from Carole Gandy – Spring 2020 – County Councillor

Firstly, may I wish you all a belated Happy and Prosperous New Year. For some of those residents in Mortimer ward the end of last year and the beginning of this year was very difficult, with properties being flooded on more than one occasion. I cannot imagine the affect it must have had upon them. Fortunately Wigmore parish itself did not suffer to such an extent although Bury Lane was affected by the flooding. I am looking at whether parishes could set up a Flood Group or at the very least have a Flood Warden and am speaking to parishes such as Bodenham where a scheme already exists.
Myself, and the parish councillors for Elton and Pipe Aston recently received agreement from the Wigmore Parish Council to submit a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) to have the speed limits parts of these villages reduced from 60 mph to 40 mph to bring them in line with Leinthall Starkes. This request has now been added to Balfour Beatty’s list.
Barry and I attended the Leinthall Starkes Christmas theme coffee morning at the end of November which we thoroughly enjoyed and were delighted to win a Father Christmas in the raffle. It took pride of place amongst our decorations. I would like to thank all those involved in organising this event.
By the time you read this article, Herefordshire Council will have set its budget and I am very disappointed that so much capital money is going into Hereford City. Many roads in Mortimer ward are in a very poor state and I am not confident that any of the roads in the ward I have identified for resurfacing this coming financial year will be included. Balfour Beatty advised us on the 29th Jan following the flooding they had at that time 500 emergency defects and 4,500 Cat 2 defects outstanding. All work being carried out by BB was re-active
The gully jetting programme had been suspended in order to focus on priority sites and there was a 200 gully jetting backlog.
According to the DfT it would require an investment of £8 million per year to be spent on our roads just to stand still and BBs budget for 2020/21 is £1.7 million. Their high priority backlog of work at that time amounted to £15.9 million so you can see the huge challenge they have. There are 300 drainage schemes on hold awaiting funding.
We are hoping for some more money in the March Government Budget and I shall be pressing for that money to be spent on rural roads.
Let’s hope that the picture I paint turns out not to be so bad. If you need to contact me about a particular issue or just to have a chat please do not hesitate to do so either by emailing me carole.gandy@herefordshire.gov.uk, or telephone either 01568 780583 or 07792882133. I am always happy to come out and visit you at your home if you feel that would be helpful.

ROTARY YOUNG MUSICIAN COMPETITION AND CONCERT

Knighton Rotary Club are hosting the Rotary Young Musician competition for Rotary Clubs in Mid Wales and this includes representatives from the Rotary Clubs of Abergavenny, Builth Wells and Crickhowell. 6 talented young musicians ( 3 vocalists, 3 instrumentalists) will be performing ( all are of grade 7 standard or above ) and it would be great to have an audience for them. The venue is the St Edwards Church Hall in Knighton and the concert starts at 1pm – hall opens at 12.30pm. Entry is free and there will be refreshments. The youngsters will be judged on their performances and the winners will proceed to the next round which will be against young musicians from across Mid and South Wales on February 29th in Blackwood. All are welcome to enjoy these exciting young stars of the future.

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