I was pleased to find that there was a good turn out with several staff members from the farm tagging along too. I love doing talks because when I prepare for them I always get to find out new fascinating facts on whatever topic the talk is about. This time I discovered that Goldcrests make their nests out of moss and spider's webs; that some butterflies, like Painted Ladies, migrate at highs of up to 1km into the sky and that bee's save farmer's millions of pounds each year by pollinating our crops for free (probably a good reason to stop killing them with insecticides...).
The morning had started with sunshine (a promising sign on the first day of spring) but had quickly turned to showers during the talk. Thankfully by the time we headed outside for our walk the rain had stopped and we set off to look for wildlife on the farm. We weren't disappointed either. As we walked through the fields looking at bat boxes, bug hotels, seedheads left for birds to eat and fantastic hedges we saw lots of wildlife, mostly birds but one person saw a fox run across the top of the fields.
For the day, our bird list was:
- Wood Pigeon
- Blue Tit
- Green Woodpecker
- Great Spotted Woodpecker
- Long Tailed Tit
- House Sparrow
- Mallard Duck
- Coat Tit
- Carrion Crow
Not bad considering the rain started up halfway round and we were out in a cropfield rather than on a nature reserve. The Buzzards (there was a pair) circled over a neighboring field giving us all a wonderful clear view, and the Green Woodpecker perched on a telegraph pole across the reservoir from us for about 5 minutes, long enough for everyone to have a good look through their binoculars.
Back in the warm we all settled down for lunch prepared by the fantastic staff at the Riverford Field Kitchen. The food was delicious! Silence descended as everyone tucked in. There was a starter of blue cheese, walnut and cauliflower salad, a main of roast beetroot and carrots, potato, mushroom and onion gratin, purple sprouting broccoli and spinach with roast chicken too. It wasn't until I took my first bite out of the roast beetroot that I realised how much I missed organic, local veg. Since moving down to Devon I haven't had a chance to set up a veg box order so we've been having supermarket veg but there's no comparison for flavour. All the food was so packed with colour and flavour that it really was an assault on the senses. Ordering our first Devon veg box is now top of my priorities (after writing this blog of course...).
The puddings were incredible too. A choice of chocolate Eton mess, treacle tart, chocolate tart, apple sponge or cheesecake. All looked delicious and made with local ingredients there were no pangs of guilt for food miles.
One of the best things for me during the day was seeing how passionate the staff at Riverford are when it comes to producing good quality, local food while protecting the environment and wildlife in their care. All the staff I talked to were confident talking about all aspects of the farm. They knew where the meat came from, how the sprouts were doing, which products were most often imported (by boat never by plane) and what the farm is doing for wildlife.
So overall, a fantastic day. Beautiful surroundings with great wildlife, some lovely people and interesting chats with the Riverford staff, delicious food and no guilt about it's environmental impact. I really do love my job.