Another gorgeous day in the wood. Our deer stalkers gave us a much appreciated helping hand with ongoing tasks. The work party arrived at 8a.m and left 8 hard- working hours later, having cleared and cut up a large fallen birch; mended the fence it had fallen onto; adjusted the top gate and continued with some challenging holly clearance on a steep slope, followed by a big bonfire. They even had time to make a lovely sturdy bench for the top of the bluebell walk where we can sit and look across the valley to St.Leonard's Forest. Beautiful. Many thanks to Mark and his team.
With the first few days of May bringing the warmest weather of the year, it seemed like a good time to review how the wood has reacted to the winter's big thin.
The bluebells seem to have benefitted from the increased light levels in the thinned pine. While we can't expect them to spread until at least next season, we seem to have more in flower this year, and fewer blind ones. In the tracks where the tractor has been, the bluebells are slowly regenerating in ones and twos, but with the crushing from the machinery we'll have to wait until next year for flowering. Now that a third of the Scots Pine plantation has been removed the large number of thriving, regenerated and regenerating beech and oak to be seen is surprising, particularly now when their leaves are bright green.
Beech seedling in the leaf litter
Protected from deer predation
The rain followed by warm days has brought on a fine crop of seedlings. Rowan seedlings are prolific in the ground layer, but there are also beech, alder and the occasional small oak. In the thinned pines where we find a healthy new seedling in a good situation with space to grow, we are protecting them with our recycled tree tubes. On Sunday we found and protected 14 new trees in this way, and will continue to do this through the Spring. These will all help to increase diversity and aid the transition from PAWS to ASNW. The top photo shows how beech trees thrive once they have escaped from the deer and are out of browsing reach.
At the moment deer damage seems to be less severe than usual. The deer stalkers have only managed to shoot five this season, and one of those was old and diseased. Their target was 12 but even a small amount helps to keep numbers down. Whether it's stalking activity, the felling operation, or the mild winter which has kept the deer well fed elsewhere, it's an opportunity to see what can regenerate in the ground layer with less deer pressure. For example, bilberry is appearing in several patches on OC2, where previously there was none.
In the willow grove, the pollarded sallows are sprouting. The ground is still very wet, supporting a fine crop of liverworts. New ferns are uncurling.
The ride is drying out. Grass is gradually returning to the surface following the scraping and levelling, but there is some way to go. The photo below shows the contrast between the foreground area which had a small amount of use by machinery and the background where there was heavy traffic.
On Sunday a pair of marsh tits were spotted near the willow grove, and the cuckoo was heard calling from St Leonard's Forest, back from his 4,000 mile trip to south west Africa.