Thursday, 24 May 2018

Spring work party at Old Copse

As usual we had quite a long list for the Spring work party of  Old Copse deerstalkers. We stayed overnight to be there for their arrival. It was a treat to wake up to a wood full of early morning birdsong and sunlight through the trees.

The day's work list included:

Putting up a temporary deer fencing enclosure around the new tree nursery raised beds.

The Scots Pine are perfect for wrapping and  attaching  the fencing

Banging in sturdy stakes along the roadside verge to help deter motorists who like to pull in to throw out their litter.

Sturdy stakes - now with added reflectors

Protecting a row of young hedging plants that were nibbled by deer with a chicken wire fence and an inner line of tape. Apparently deer are reluctant to jump over what appears to be a double fence. We shall have to wait and see if this is the case. It doesn't look very attractive now but once the plants grow up it'll be hidden.

Next winter's firewood logged and stacked.

It was a glorious  sunny day to be working in the wood, and a good day's work was done. Many thanks to Mark and his crew. They are doing a great job managing the fallow deer population . This can be seen  in the explosion of new plant growth  this Spring. It is only 3 weeks into the closed season  which lasts until August 1st, so there is still plenty of time for the deer to do their damage, but  there is so much growing  it's difficult to see how they can eat the lot. We've started to see the occasional deer in the wood again, mostly young ones, but not,so far, the large groups of them that we used to see.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Hammock life

At long last we have invested in two hammocks. The aim is to encourage us to spend more time just enjoying the wood - rather than always finding new tasks to do.

Trying one out:

The most perfect view looking up from the hammock:

Monday, 7 May 2018

UK Bluebells


 Somewhere deep in my subconscious I had assumed that bluebells were  - well - English so I was quite startled to see from a friend's Instagram photos that they are doing well and are a common sight across the Channel in Brittany. A quick Google  made it clear that although 50% of the world's hyacinthoides non scripta grow in Britain, they have a range that extends from the UK across western France, Netherlands and Belgium and down the Atlantic coast to northwestern Spain. They are all over the UK, apart from the far north - Hebrides and Orkney.  With that Atlantic distribution it's clear they don't like their winters too cold, and prefer the milder Gulf Stream climate. This year's cold spring has apparently delayed bluebell flowering, although looking back at this blog, in Old Copse they are probably only a few days later than last year.

Bluebells mean a lot to us because they are a clear indicator of how the work we are doing to thin the plantation and clear the bracken makes a difference to the ground flora.  We can track the changes by watching how the bluebells march across the newly created spaces from year to year, advancing through the wood from the ride towards the pond. Front runners appear in single figures, and are joined by new ones each Spring until there is a clump, and pretty soon the clumps join up to form a carpet  that conquers all the empty brown space .  This year, the first few bluebells managed to reach  beyond the Pond side of the cabin. Hurrah! -  and the deer don't eat them -  Double Hurrah!

 The most abundant bluebell displays can be seen in the northerly 15 acres (OC2)  of the birch wood . The southern 15 acres (OC1)  is less diverse ,  increasingly so the further south one walks, where there are no bluebells at all in the birch wood, or any deciduous trees apart from birch, except along the roadside edge. We don't know why this is so. In the northern 15 acres  there are a fair number of  other deciduous trees such as beech, oak, rowan, hazel crab apple, cherry, and hawthorn. There is only 1 large Scots pine  present as this part of the plantation was destroyed in the 1987 storm, and birch quickly colonised the space. The absence of pine means there is no thick layer of  pine needles to suffocate ground flora, and light levels have attained a good balance, resulting in  very little bracken and hardly any bramble, except for around the edges. So  the bluebells are thriving. This is what we are aiming for in the rest of Old Copse.

Herbie, full of the joys of a bluebell Spring, and the scent of fallow deer.

 Brimstone butterfly feeding on a bluebell