Taking the sting out of nettles…

…and we did!

I spent the morning in the general vicinity of the centre, initially sweeping the nettles to see all the bugs, flies and beetles that were living upon them – a couple of click beetles and, particularly, a tick, excited the most interest:

Once we knew how much “protein” could be found on a nettle leaf if we weren’t careful we all sampled some raw nettles after I demonstrated how to roll the leaves first, thus removing the stinging hairs. They can’t have been too bad as I think everyone went back for seconds! We then gathered a few (a couple of large mixing bowls full!) nettle tops. The last couple of weeks of sunshine have seen the lush spring nettle growth starting to go over to flower and seed, by which time they are past their best for eating, so we had to be a bit selective. That done, and with tingling fingers, we harvested a few long stems and then headed to our campfire area gathering deadwood along the way. Fire lit, the vegetables were prepared:

 The nettle tops were then added to the mix and the billy can hung out over the fire. While the nettle soup simmered we peeled back the fibres from the longer nettle stems we had harvested and plaited these into some very useful lengths of string:

String made and soup ready we sat down to indulge ourselves – at 26C in the shade it wasn’t exactly soup weather, but that didn’t put anyone off going back for seconds, thirds (and possibly even fourths!). Regardless it all went anyway – and to those of you who know my reputation for a “healthy appetite”, it wasn’t all down to me!

Away from the nettles the reserve was quite busy (for the time of year) and visitors as well as enjoying the sunshine, will also have been able to enjoy the Odonata at last – damselflies are now out and about in reasonable numbers, not just occasional sightings here and there and in the meadow we were working in (alright, playing in) there was a dragonfly hawking up and down to – didn’t get a close view of it but it was of a size to have been a downy emerald, thus making up for Thursdays dead one. Grass snakes are also enjoying the heat and there were very exciting glimpses by some of one swimming underwater past the “pond cam” when they popped into the centre!

As you would expect the moth count is continuing to rise with the light trap catch much more interesting and varied over the last couple of days with 18 species recorded. Brenda and Jackie checked the nest boxes again and it was all good news there too – more pullus to ring and no new nest failures this week either.

It’s a busy weekend for all concerned at the reserve – Bob is in tomorrow and working today on a New Forest “bio blitz” event, over near Brockenhurst somewhere I think (the finds of which he will no doubt share with us either today or tomorrow!) and tomorrow (11am-4pm) is the Roydon Woods Woodfair HIWWT/New Forest NPA event at the Trusts Roydon Woods Nature Reserve, also near Brockenhurst, that Michelle will be working. In its fifth year and bigger and better all the time it’s a great little event with loads of activities laid on and lots of local producers showing off their wares. I would highly recommend it to anyone – for more info see the HIWWT website : http://www.hwt.org.uk/events.php/1836/roydon-woods-woodfair-and-local-produce-market

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