North Devon was fortunate not to have experienced the wet weather that engulfed a lot of the country. We have had to irrigate the greens even after a few thunderstorms in early August. It is now mid August and the rain has been sufficient to penetrate well into the ground and soon the grass will recover from drought stress and start to grow. As always the greens team will do their level best to keep on top of it! Their efforts on the greens this year are evident for all to see and may positive comments have been made as to how wonderful the greens are. It is great to be able to pass on that feedback, and of course, is always appreciated.
Many guests often remark on the gardens and grounds and for most of this summer the greens team a have taken responsibility for their upkeep, but I am pleased to say we now have a young and very enthusiastic local lady taking over the reins. It is hoped that we can bring more colour into the grounds, with an array of bulbs being planted this autumn. We look forward to welcoming Dolly to Highbullen and wish her well in her new job.
So far this summer we have had some good sighting of raptors around the hotel, peregrines, goshawks and hobbies are often seen passing by but no red kites so far. Buzzards and sparrow hawks are here every day so keep your eyes aloft. The spotted flycatchers were around until the beginning of August and we eagerly await the results of the tracking that the RSPB has done. Hopefully both females will return next year so we can see where they went overwintering in Africa. Back in the spring, an osprey was seen for several hours over the river Mole and this could possibly return south again, this autumn, and down the valley.
Unfortunately, it is with a heavy heart that I have to report that there has been a category one pollution incident in the Upper Mole, where an estimated 10,000 fish were killed over some five kilometres of the river. With salmon and sea trout stocks already under great pressure this doesn't bode well for what has to be one of the very best salmon and sea trout rivers in the West Country. I am pleased to report however that the Environmental Agency reacted very quickly and as a result, further downstream from the incident, where another tributary enters the Mole River, their action is believed to have staved off further fish being killed. Although the long-term effect on the river is unknown for now. my experience in monitoring the river further downstream 24 and 48 hours later was not too depressing. There were no dead or dying fish, in fact several sea trout were seen jumping at dusk. The recent rains will also have cleared the river out and hopefully improve the fishing, which has been very limited this season so far. On a positive note, there have also been reports that the brown trout catches are increasing in numbers, as is the size of fish.
The large amount of maize now grown in North Devon means that red deer sightings are less common, even at dawn and dusk maize provides the perfect hide away! However don't forget the rut starts at the beginning of October and just before it, the stags roam about the countryside with more purpose and as such are far easier to see. Often there are stags very close to the hotel grounds and on many occasions they gorge themselves on our carefully mown and succulent grasses on offer. The deer hide is well worth a visit early morning or dusk from now on. If you are patient and more importantly very quiet, you will be able to enjoy the peace and tranquillity, with more often than not, the wildlife will come to you!