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A Week on the Estate: Storm Ciara, Rug Repair & Bug Census

South Ormsby’s week began with the aftermath of Storm Ciara, which brough winds in excess of 50mph and sudden, heavy downpours to the county. Sunday night saw estate staff working with chainsaws and a JCB in wild weather to clear a road blocked by fallen trees at Campaign Top. Daylight on Monday revealed more fallen timber and some wrecked fencing to be added to the estate’s job-list.


In finer, settled weather, Leanne Gains explored her ideas for ‘bringing the outside in’ to Little Ormsbees Nursery. She explored the Hall’s grounds with her daughters, India, 7, and Tally, 4, who thoroughly enjoyed reading and hunting for treasure in the heart of our lovely countryside.


Indoors, Jacqui Rhodes returned a fine, hand-made rug to its rightful place in the entrance hall following its repair by the expert craftsmen of James Barclay Rugs of London.

Over several generations, the rug developed a hole substantial enough to trip the Squire from time to time, obliging him to place it in storage. The remarkable repair carried out by James Barclay is all but invisible. A large swatch has been replaced in a process that included re-building the warp and weft, then knotting in wool precisely matched to the original design.


The rug was originally made to match the shape of the room. An underlay is being made to protect both the restored rug and the slab-stone floor beneath.


Local entomologist Dr David Sheppard has generously devoted time and expertise to researching the estate’s biodiversity. In his latest report, 142 species of insects were recorded from a single Malaise trap on Lime Tree Walk over six months during 2019. The results are very encouraging given that they’re drawn from one trap, with much of the estate still to be investigated. David believes that the tally of species could exceed 200 if the sampling continues through 2020.

The Malaise trap is named after René Malaise, a Swedish entomologist who spent a lot of time investigating the insect fauna of south-east Asia. He found that if he left the entrance sheet of his tent open, he could collect species that he didn’t see during his days of sampling in the field. He was inspired to design a trap based on the shape of his tent but modified to maximise the sampling potential.


The modern Malaise trap used by David is a tent-like structure made of black netting and standing 1.8m tall by 2m long. A central netted structure slopes upwards towards daylight and a collecting pot. The trap collects both flying insects and ground-based invertebrates – such as harvestmen and woodlice – that tend to climb into shrubs and trees.


For centuries, South Ormsby Estate has been a grazed, landscaped pasture planted with foreign and native trees and surrounded by agricultural land. This is reflected in one of David’s findings, the harvest bug – Anthocoris nemorum of the order Hemiptera – which was all too familiar to bare-armed agricultural labourers of the pre-mechanical age. Harvest bugs are predators of small insects but will dig their proboscises or tongues into human flesh and cause irritation and, if scratched, infection.

David also found a not-at-all ladylike relative of the harvest bug, the damsel bug – Himacerus apterus. A predator of other insects, the damsel bug’s proboscis doesn’t lie flat under its body as with its sap-feeding relatives, but is instead long and curved so that the bug resembles a boxer with his fists up.


As we move towards spring, we’ll be reporting more good news on the estate’s biodiversity and exploring in more detail the natural wonders discovered by David.