Friday, 30 September 2016

The End of Summer

August 28th was the hottest day of the year. It was 29 degrees and too hot for the beach. We thought the wood would be cooler.

The wood in high summer is very different. Completely still and silent as all the small creatures are sheltering motionless in the shade. Even the Canada geese decided to shut up for a bit.

Now the Autumn equinox has been and gone, but the weather remains mostly warm and sunny. More warmth is forecast for the first part of October too, so perhaps it's a good time to remember the Summer before the clocks go back  and Autumn storms arrive. As usual, work in Old Copse slowed down a fair bit during the summer months. It was often too hot to do very much except bash the bracken, which at last seems to be getting the hint, continue with the holly removal, monitor the wood's recovery from the Scots Pine thin of last winter,  protect  tree seedlings from the deer,enjoy the beauty of the wood and its bird and wildlife, and start  planning for the coming winter.

One of the many new and so far unidentified plants springing up behind the cabin
The way Old Copse has regenerated itself since the big thin has been truly remarkable. Helped along by our mattocking work on the worst of the ruts, the ground has slowly settled down and been covered by new growth.  In many places where the tractor has been, long dormant seeds have sprung to life.  Prime opportunists, such as foxgloves, have seized their chance and sprung up thickly.

 Around the new entrance and on the new track, both of which took a hammering during the thinning operation, the common rush (Juncus Effusus) has rushed in to colonise the compacted, wet ground. We think that this will gradually be ousted by grasses  as the soil dries out. The main ride, which the contractors levelled and scraped at the end of their work, is now almost back to the way it was previously, the grasses having now crept back to the middle from the sides. By next summer it should be well covered once more. Towards the north end of the ride, the first grass to grow was very tall and tussocky. Like the common rush on the compacted wet areas, we think that this tall grass will be replaced by shorter varieties next year. Once the ride is completely recovered, we plan to start rotational mowing in the autumn, as advised by Natural England, in order to increase bio-diversity.

The grass started to come back

Looking forward to the winter, the next thing on our agenda after the Big Thin, is the Big Plant. We've been poring over forestry tree suppliers brochures, and drawing up our order, to be delivered, we hope by the end of November, and planted out during December. We'll be ordering 250 'whips', tiny trees,  50 each of Common Oak (Quercus robur), Beech (Fagus Sylvatica), Bird Cherry (Prunus Padus), Hornbeam (Carpinus Betulas), and Sweet Chestnut (Castanea Sativa). All trees are guaranteed to be grown in England, (with nothing imported to risk adding to the growing number of tree diseases). These, plus the 30 - 50 seedling trees from Old Copse being  lovingly nurtured at home, will be planted in the thinned pine plantation, on the SSSI part of Old Copse. Like all shopping catalogues, the ones selling trees are just as, or probably even more enticing. There were a number of trees listed that sounded very attractive, but sadly we don't have the right conditions for them. However, among our collection of pampered home grown trees, we have a Walnut and a Mulberry, both bursting out of their pots and looking for new homes. We think we'll plant them up by the new entrance where they'll have lots of sunshine and space.

We are considering protecting at least some of the new planting with temporary deer fencing, but all the new trees will be protected by individual shelters. It's still a battle with the fallow deer, so we expect a certain amount of young tree attrition, but  let's be positive that a good percentage will survive. All rather exciting. It's taken us a long time to get to this stage, which is only possible now that we've had the Scots Pine thinned.

Hedge Brown or Gatekeeper. There were many of these butterflies feeding on the nettles that grew up after the disturbance caused by the new entrance construction.

Herbie, you're too big for laps.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Deer, deer and more deer

Mark Chase from the Deer Action Group gave us this footage from the trail camera, showing just what the deer get up to when they think no one's around. These shots were all taken from the deer seat May- August - note how quickly the ground recovers in just one season.

This is August in OC1. 

Mostly they spend their time eating - as we thought - but there is also time for play.