Monday, 4 November 2013

Post storm news

Recently returned from an Autumn trip to Cyprus staying with friends. Wonderful food, marvellous weather,  26 degrees and not a cloud in a brilliant blue sky. In the Troodos mountains we found Greek Strawberry trees which have a remarkably cold and hard bark (but no strawberries).

Back in England we went to Old Copse to check out any damage following the storm on 28th October. None at all except for a large fallen oak at the south end which is now lying gracefully across the Pond.

On the OC2 ride the stalkers have put up a deer seat which surveys the large scallop in the birch that they created recently, and also the pink deerlick,  now much licked. The nearby rutting stands are showing evidence of use, and we caught sight of a white stag with large antlers.

Still managing to find mushrooms, (but fortunately no Romanians) despite the storm.

Still shifting the firewood pile on the OC1 Ride, and moving it near the gate.  It will so much  easier to process  firewood once Sarah gets her chainsaw qualification....    

Friday, 18 October 2013


Two Stinkhorns (Phallus impudicus) found at the edge of the glade in OC1. Flies feeding on the spores have eaten away the smelly grey cap exposing the white honeycomb structure beneath.

Friday, 11 October 2013

More fungi

Two more species successfully identified: Boletus luridus and Cortinarius violaceus

Boletus luridiformis (syn Boletus erythropus)  the 'lurid bolete'. Found several clusters each about half a dozen strong growing in the pine in OC1 - just off the new clearing. 'Roger's Mushrooms' suggests 'habitat in coniferous, broad-leaved and mixed woodland. Identifiable by the colour, and the way the strong sturdy stem hardly narrows at all, just goes straight into the cap like a tree trunk. Also discolours blue immediately when cut. Supposed to be edible when cooked - I'm not going to try.

Cortinarius violaceus  - purple webcap. Found one broken specimen  near the path by the pond at the northern end of OC1. Took home to identify - see Key features not only colour but shape and the faint woolly covering. Photos do not do it justice. Rare.

Finally, is this a type of honey fungus? Or possibly the shaggy scalecap (Pholiota squarrosa). More research needed. Growing on several old birch stumps cut c 3 years ago in OC1.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

What goes on when we're not there

 Old Copse goes on doing what woods do, whether we are there or not,  Every visit reveals traces of the secret life of the wood - sometimes  baffling,  sometimes unwelcome. For example, the extensive looping track made with soot or coal dust near the Southern boundary that we came across recently; who made it and why? Was it part of a game, a spell? who knows. Pieces of  string painstakingly tied  round tree trunks in the new clearing, and so carefully knotted. An occult ceremony perhaps?  A definite whiff of Blair Witch there.

 Other traces aren't so intriguing, such as the litter to be found both sides of the Grouse Road boundary - we picked up a couple of large bags today on our regular collection - and  the  collapsing fences where people have climbed over. We did some emergency dry hedge repairs, but  more permanent solutions are needed. Placing large logs on the verge near the most vulnerable parts of the fence could help deter people from parking  and climbing over. Another addition for the to do list.

The beautiful Autumn weather has attracted a few uninvited visitors recently,  such as the aggressive Eastern European family -  probably Roumanian , (sorry if that sounds like the  Daily Mail)  who we found crashing around in the birch, intent on mushrooms. They already had one large basket and a huge plastic bag full to bursting with boletus. The fat father responded to Sarah's challenge  with ,   'I come here many time' and particularly charmingly,  'f***k off  f *****g  b**ch. Sarah ordered them off and was given a final farewell of  'you snob' (eh?) as he and his family clambered back over the fence, and into their large silver BMW. Nice. Other visitors were two very polite young Russians, and an amateur photographer from Horsham who has known Old Copse since he was a boy, and who said that he's never met anyone in the wood before.

We, plus friends,  made a good start on clearing  and processing last winter's felled birch. Still much to do. Heavy work too, unlike a little light bracken bashing (see last post.......)

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Bracken Bashing

Since May 2010 I have been bashing the bracken on the Ride, (with occasional help from a Grandson). Not only bashing it with a stick, but also nipping its tops off with my fingers.  Especially satisfying is to snap the tops just as after they’ve pushed their coiled heads through the ground. To be effective, this task must be begun in May, as soon as the bracken starts to appear, and carried out thoroughly at least once a week until early September when it at last gives up the ghost, turning brittle and brown, collapsing onto the ground.
One is well rewarded for this work. In the Spring of 2012, the area at the end of OC1 on the SSSI side of the Ride was smothered in bluebells, and this year their numbers had increased even further. When I began , this same area had not a single bluebell, only dead brown earth covered with a mat of dead bracken. What a result.
In addition to abundant bluebells, the grass cover has increased both in volume and in its diversity of grasses, flowers, and herbs. We’ve noticed many more butterflies and insects on the Ride. All very gratifying. The grasses are    rapidly spreading from the Ride into the trees. Much of this has happened where Ride side thinning has not yet begun (ie at the top of the Ride on the SSSI side) so it is arguably  not a result of letting in more light. It seems  that these improvements are due simply  to the removal of bracken as soon as it appears.
The same thing is happening on the new Ride, reaching down to the pond, where I have been bashing the bracken since the area was cleared of some trees (though more need to be felled) during late 2011.
Sarah and I also started bracken bashing in the Glade after it was cleared in January 2010. We experimented with thoroughly removing the bracken on one side of the glade, starting in the Spring of 2011, and continuing to 2012, in order to see if the foxgloves and other flora increased in number.  It did. However, this Spring we were busy with making a start on work in OC2 so we were unable to find time to tackle the Glade. Sadly, monster bracken has returned with a vengeance, ominously circling the temporarily increased area of foxgloves.

I’ve noticed that year on year, the bracken seems to get weedier, though I don’t know if it would revert back to its monster size if I stopped bashing it for a year. Will it  eventually give up? I hope so. 

Friday, 17 May 2013

A few avian visitors

Yesterday (16th) was what felt like the first warm day for a week. Short working visit to the wood produced a clear view of the kingfisher zipping along the stream in the north of OC2, a sighting of the male grebe on the  pond, a greater spotted woodpecker close by the gate in OC1 and a pair of jays. Lots of tawny owl activity heard from 3.30 onwards but no sightings. Cuckoo not heard this time but according to Sussex Ornithological Society has been spotted several time on the 14th green of the golf course. 

Friday, 10 May 2013

Spring is late but here

Spring has finally and belatedly arrived in the wood. The cuckoo has been heard calling from further north in St Leonards Forest - from almost exactly the same spot as it called last year. Brimstone butterflies have appeared on the ride. Tawny owls have been calling very early - possibly as a result of the long winter they need to start feeding early as food is scarce. On Friday 3rd two tawny owls were spotted in a large beech in the middle of Old Copse Two, sitting side by side on a branch. This is evidently a favourite tree as shown by the droppings beneath it. Would be wonderful if these were a breeding pair.

The clearing work to create the new glade in Old Copse 1 is settling down, although the remaining piles of brash still need to be removed, or scattered or burned. Blurred phone photos show Dan and Cav working to create the new space back in January.

Dan and Cav felling the new glade
All these logs will be towed and stacked