On from Beginnings

Looking back to that first summer in Worplesdon I am sad that there are so many negative changes among all the wonderful experiences.

For the first couple of years Merrist Wood continued to cut the surrounding fields for hay and silage followed in the autumn by cattle grazing before the ground became to wet (September to October). The impact on bird numbers and variety was incredibly beneficial. We knew that we had a Linnet nest in the garden and even more amazingly Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers had nested in an old plum tree in our hedgerow but were simply overwhelmed with the migrants that appeared soon after the cattle.

First, and a little hard to miss lined up along the barn roof, were hundreds of Yellow wagtails. Most spent there time gorging on the flies associated with the cattle but on some days there were more in the garden than Bluetits! Seems like a dream now as we also regularly saw Whinchats, Wheatears, Redstarts, and Stonechats! Two glorious autumns then Merrist Wood ceased being an agricultural college, dispensed with the herd of cattle and the farm staff- hardly any autumn migrants!

You will note that the only reason the fields were passed from public ownership to the college was because they were required as part of the teaching resource of an agricultural college. Sadly the management of the college at the time decided, in my view without any consideration of the long term impact, to shift the college towards teaching both golf and equine studies. Nothing wrong in that you could say but my view is that at that stage the land should have been passed back to public ownership rather than being used as a prospective housing site that nobody other than certain people at the college want.