Friday, 30 October 2009

Ancient Trees

The Woodland Trust have a project to create a register of all the veteran trees across the UK. So far four trees in the wood have been registered:

Tree number 42220 Status: Notable. TQ 2178 2932.
Common Beech  Girth: 3.95 metres measured at its narrowest girth (20 cm above the path) due to being multiple stemmed.

Tree number 42221 Status: Notable TQ 2181 2940
Scots Pine. Easily identified on a google earth aerial view  above the south western toe of the OC2 scots pine plantation. Its significantly larger size indicates that it pre-dates the 1950's plantation.Girth: 2.55 metres at 1.50 metres high.

Tree number 42222 Status: Veteran TQ 2173 2915
Yew.Girth: 4.54 metres at 1.50 metres high.


Tree number 42223 Status: veteran TQ 2173 2917
Common Beech. .Girth: 4.85 metres at 1.50 metres high

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Sunday trip with Nick, Sue and the boys

Better than computer games - the best comment yet!

Monday, 12 October 2009


As we have got to know the wood over the summer, beautiful as it is, the issues have become clear and possible solutions have evolved.

There are two main problems, both caused by the wood's history and recent lack of management. The first is darkness and overcrowding, which suppress the ground flora. The pines are overcrowded and in need of serious thinning. Growing so close together they are not nearly as robust as 50 year- old pines should be. The forester who came on Friday thought they had probably been thinned only once, whereas a plantation of that age would normally be thinned three or four times during its lifetime. In the spaces created where the pines were blown down in the 1987 storm, the new birch wood has grown exceedingly dense and needs drastic thinning to help the struggling oak, beech and rowan seedlings.

The second problem is a lack of variation in the woodland structure, in particular a lack of understorey. The remaining pines were planted all at the same time, and are consequently all more or less the same size. The new birch wood colonised the bare ground after the 87 storm, and that too is all of an equal age and height. There are some veteran trees, but not many, and very little understorey as all the growth rushes upwards towards the light.

We have known for a while that the answer will be to create a programme of thinning and glades. Our visitors from Natural England and the High Weald project approved, and encouraged us to be bolder in our thinking. We are now considering a more radical thinning of the pines, combining this with wide sunny areas where we can encourage oak regeneration. They agreed that widening the ride was a good idea, and also creating wide paths through the wood. We had already considered small paths to link favourite features, but these would be more ambitious. They also suggested coppicing the alder wood, which is probably a project for the future.

We have already started work on the ride, taking out the overhanging birch and thinning around the oak and alder. This will take several visits over the autumn and winter, not least because there is twenty-odd years of growth to dispose of.

Sunday, 4 October 2009


The common purple rhododendron, Rhododendron ponticum (L.) is a roaring success in its own terms. First introduced in 1763 as a decorative plant for estates and gardens, in the following 250 years it has rampaged through the UK's lowland woods, covering large parts of Snowdonia, western Scotland, Devon and Cornwall. It is a vigorous competitor - nothing eats the shiny evergreen leaves, the dense shade prevents anything growing underneath and the big purple flowers throw out millions of seeds every summer. Eventually dense thickets form. DNA analysis has shown that R. ponticum is a native of Portugal and Southern Spain, which makes sense as Conrad Loddiges, the original importer, had the seed sent from Gibraltar. Presumably its growth in hotter countries is checked by lack of rain - which might explain why it does so well here.

In Old Copse there are fewer than a dozen small patches of rhododendron, some small clumps in the birch on the east side of the ride, and two bigger ones in the SSSI down by the water. On the last weekend on September we had a go at rhododendron bashing. The Forestry Commission website is full of suggestions on how to tackle it, and we decided on the low tech method of hacking it down, applying herbicide to the stumps and piling up the old leaves and branches for burning later. We destroyed four of the biggest clumps in the birch wood, and at the same time chopped away at the thinner scrubby birch to widen the resulting cleared patches. The rhododendron has  colonised any sunny patch, so possibly the current dense birch growth has inhibited it from spreading further. As we thin out the woods, we will have to be vigilant to make sure we haul out any upstart seedlings which will otherwise flourish in the newly cleared areas.