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A Week on the Estate: Rubble Crushing, Blackcurrant Harvesting & Mortar Munching

Last weekend brought the hot spell to an end with some dramatic thunderstorms which ushered in a week of cooler temperatures and showers.  While a British summer is never predictable, this one certainly seems to suit the estate which is brimming with life.

Little Ormsbees Nursery continues to take shape at the old school. Timber works have nearly been completed on the south-facing gable-end. The boundary wall has been fully repaired, ready to keep a few more generations safe at playtime.

James Ford of Ford & Son dropped in to crush some concrete and rubble and sieve a pile of soil in one of our farmyards. This will help with our ongoing renovation works around the estate. We’ll use the crushed rubble to repair our tracks and the soil for any landscaping.

At the Massingberd-Mundy Distillery, Tristan Jørgensen brought in a bumper harvest of blackcurrants from Hardens Gap. The next step is to find the perfect place for them in the blend of botanicals that gives his gins their lip-smacking edge.

It’s National Meadows Day on 4th July and Magnificent Meadows are showcasing beautiful, flower-rich meadows across the UK. We’re doing our best to support these precious habitats with sustainable agricultural practices, including planting field margins with wild meadow-flowers.

Not to be outdone by Damian Furlong spotting a cuckoo last week, Jacqui Rhodes made her own discoveries on an evening stroll around the estate. She photographed a male reed bunting sporting the black head and throat plumage of spring and summer, and a pair of skylarks strolling through a field and refusing to live up to their name.

Jacqui wasn’t the only one to be fascinated by our birdlife this week. Tristan Jørgensen spotted a pair of house sparrows apparently doing a bit of pointing on his house walls, while Paul Barnes went one better with a male great spotted woodpecker inspecting a cavity. They may well be hunting for tasty bugs and grubs in small gaps, but the RSPB suggests other possibilities.

Some birds seek out mortar for the grit it contains. As birds are toothless, they ingest abrasive material and store it in their gizzards to help grind down thick-skinned seeds and insects that might otherwise be too hard to digest. In a rural setting, this would typically apply to finches and sparrows. A bird’s gizzard is lined with a layer of keratin tough enough to protect its innards from sharp grit.

Another possibility is raised by the age of the mortar being pecked at. Calcium carbonate in the form of limestone features in older cement and mortar; it is also the principal ingredient in eggshell. To help replace calcium carbonate used in generating eggs, wild birds in the breeding season will seek out handy sources, including road grit and your brickwork. It seems nature will always find a way, even if it involves giving your pointing the once-over.