Farley is a beautiful old village, set amongst fields and woods whose boundaries haven’t changed in centuries. The village has some lovely old dwellings – not least the Wardenry and Alms Houses – and almost all its buildings remain harmonious and pleasing to the eye. The church, the pub and village hall, together with the Cricket Field and Farley Fox Play Area, give us all a sense of continuity and timelessness in this modern age where rapid change is the norm.

farley-fox-field-croppedThe “Farley Triangle” of narrow roads has mostly fields and old hedgerows within it and outside it: pasture and arable dominate, with wild hops and clematis winding through ancient hedges. We still have a few old hay meadows, one being particularly flower and wildlife rich, while elsewhere in our county and beyond some 96% of hay meadows have been lost to neglect or changes in farming practice.  Our meadows still have southern marsh and common spotted orchids, and many other rare meadow flowers adorned by butterflies and grasshoppers long since disappeared from other areas.

Farley Copse, White’s Common and Blackmoor Copse, Hound Wood and Bentley Wood together form a fabulous remnant tract of the ancient Clarendon Royal Hunting Forest. Some of our local hedgerow oaks and those in the middle of fields are surviving veterans of that forest. We have an amazing suite of butterflies, moths and woodland flowers to enjoy because of this wealth of high quality woodland.

The compactness and cohesiveness of Farley’s historic core with a (so far) intact link to its rural pasture/meadow/forest landscape setting is priceless. The village is easily crossed on foot and by bicycle. I can’t think of many villages where you can walk from the pub to the cricket field and see rare brown hairstreak butterflies, a wasp spider, a family of bullfinches, a barn owl or a flock of 40 lapwings.

Rural and wooded landscapes protrude into the village, mostly complementing and enhancing its character and often providing key views. All these green corridors should be conserved and managed to ensure new developments don’t have adverse effects on the landscape character or the way that it is perceived, and without compromising its values.

We are SO lucky to have local landowners that manage their land with great continuity and sympathy, and a Parish Council that is sensitive to Farley’s treasures.

Farley Winter Wildlife

Winter can be hard for wildlife.  Food dwindles and winter’s cold grip may be all-enveloping, but this doesn’t mean that there’s nothing about in the countryside.

Garden and hedgerow berries and seed-heads attract resident goldfinches, not to mention visiting fieldfares and redwings from the far-flung cold wastes of Russia and Scandinavia.  If you’re out walking in the countryside listen for the fieldfares’ “chacalaca” calls.  Though they’re usually to be seen darting from bush to bush around field margins, if there’s a cold north-easterly wind you may find them sheltering from the biting wind in village gardens– especially if you put cut apples and pears out for them. Bullfinches seem to have had another good breeding season locally so listen out for their quiet, melancholy contact calls. They stay in pairs or family groups through the winter and it’s amazing how hard it is to spot the brightly coloured male in his smart outfit of rich black, grey and pinky red. His mate, in more sombre hues of black, grey and pale plum is even harder to detect. Look out for the bright flash of their white rumps as they flit across our lanes.

Although January is regarded as the dead of winter, check hedgebanks and damp woodlands in south Wiltshire for drifts of snowdrops, pushing up bravely.  Towards the end of winter their delicate white lantern flowers open to their fullest if we get any ‘warm’ days – welcoming any hungry queen bumble bees woken from hibernation.

Whilst strolling in the woods, listen for loud, staccato, drummings of territorial male great spotted woodpeckers, and the cat-like mewing of courting buzzards wheeling and tumbling overhead.  Walking at dusk you may hear the insistent hoots and kee-wicks of amorous tawny owls and the blood-curdling screams of lovesick vixens teasing dog foxes, strutting resplendent in their luxurious, dense winter coats.

What’s not to love in Farley?

Dr Sue Walker

A personal view by Sue Walker, Forestry Houses