This month’s news comes from the valley slopes of the Stour, namely Great Cornard Country Park. The Sudbury Common Lands Charity has been managing the park on behalf of the parish council for a number of years now and it is encouraging to see how it has developed during that time. Originally officially opened in 1986 by David Bellamy, it has evolved over the last thirty plus years into an interesting area to visit and a special place for wildlife.
From the top of the park there are wonderful views over the valley and north towards Sudbury. The park is made up of a number of small fields which have retained their very ancient hedgerows which give so much character and delight as well as adding to the wildlife value. Badgers have their setts at the foot of the hedges, excavated out of the sand that underlies the thin soils. It must have always been rather poor farmland even when Iron Age man was tilling the soil around two thousand five hundred years ago.
The park still retains two small areas that have never been under the plough and every spring these fragments provide a wonderful display of English bluebells. These are a deeper blue and have a straighter ‘trumpet’ than their Spanish cousins which adorn our gardens, although people have planted the Spanish variety near Blackhouse Lane along with other bulbs and flowers in their misguided efforts to turn the park into a wildflower garden.
Fortunately elsewhere nature still has the upper hand and this is nowhere more striking than on Danes Hole which was added to the park about eight years ago. Here, rather than seeding a field with wildflowers, nature has been left to sow her own flower mix. In late June and July this land is worth a look as thousands of rosebay willow-herb flowers rise up on pink spires on what was, not so long ago, a field of barley. There is much more too. Beautiful bee orchids will flower in the short grassland this month and later the curious ploughman’s spikenard, while mounds of wild marjoram and the nationally scarce and pungently fragrant lesser calamint attract butterflies, moths and bees. Statuesque teasels grow tall to provide lots of winter seed for charms of goldfinches. Did these plants grow from seed that survived in the soil or were they dropped by birds and passing animals or blown in on the wind? Either way nature knows how to reclaim her own if given half a chance.