Many eyes make light work!

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Last week we had the entire Bury C of E Primary School loose in Northwood! With the aid of two minibuses and two trips we successfully ferried all the children and teachers over for a session of woodland discovery and den building.  Lots of energy was burned off running through the War Ag. Fields and lots of eyes helped me check for sapling survival in over 400 tree tubes.  The good news was that only four dead trees were found.  We even put our wildlife detective caps on and discovered a pile of pheasant feathers, coming to the conclusion that the bird had been taken away by a fox.  Did you know that if the quill of the feathers are chewed it’s been eaten by a mammal and if it’s still all intact, it’s most likely been plucked by a bird (like a sparrowhawk).

I’ve also been over to Bury Primary School once a week this term to help spring clean their pond and swat up on their bird identification skills. A lot of teamwork went into clearing out the pond, as well as the surrounding area.  New growth is already shooting up and toad tadpoles are swimming around.  Even the odd smooth newt has been spotted.

We also had the National Trust Nyman Rangers and volunteers in Northwood last week constructing one of our 5ft tree guards. With the lull of hot chocolate alfresco, the guard was put up in record time.  Nyman’s come out to Northwood every year to give a helping hand so massive thanks guys and we look forward to your 2018 visit!


…Where to start!

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What a busy month it’s been…

There’s been so much activity in Northwood I’ve barely had a moment to sit down in the office and update you all about it.

Over the course of 4 days (and several minibus trips) we’ve had the entire Year 3 and Year 4 of Yapton Primary School (about 90 pupils) out planting two new tree clumps in our War Ag. 3 and 4 fields. This makes a total for 4 clumps in these fields now, each consisting of 200-250 trees. Once these pockets of woodland start growing, they will play an important role in the movement of wildlife, acting as natural stepping stones and wildlife corridors from one wooded area to another.

In the short time they had, Yapton Primary worked their socks off and planted a total of 450 trees including species such as oak, beech, field maple and whitebeam. I was also blown away by their knowledge of nature and woodlands – well done guys.

Hot chocolates all round

We also had the pleasure of seeing RSPB Pagham Seals again for their annual trip to Northwood. This year they wanted to get stuck into some practical work to help the project and boy did they get stuck in! In just one afternoon we managed to coppice 40 meters of hedgerow and then lay the brash over the top like dead hedging to limit the browsing of new shoots by deer.  Coppicing involves rejuvenating hedging by cutting it down near to ground level, encouraging vigorous regrowth and the return of a thicker and healthier hedgerow. Thanks to the group/leaders and to their parents/carers for joining in too.

Good job done!

The Archives Team from West Sussex Records Office joined us for a morning of tree planting over in the War Ag. 3 fields. This was a particularly special day as the team wanted to plant up an area in memory of a close friend and colleague who had recently passed away. I learnt that this friend was fond of nature and the outdoors so this session was especially fitting. The sun even came out for us and I saw my first honey bee of the year. Over 70 trees were planted, mostly beech and I look forward to seeing the team again later this year for a spot of after tree care.

And finally, we have several wooden tree guard to construct this year for our wood pasture area in War Ag 1. 14 already stand tall from last year’s hard work but 16 more need to go in this year. To kick start this year’s challenge we held a South Downs National Trust Ranger Day where Rangers and Volunteers from different sites came down to help us. We had Woolbeding, Black Down and Birling Gap make it over and together we constructed 6 guards. There was also a BBQ lunch midway just to keep everyone’s strength up! Thanks to all the teams for giving their time to the project and for helping us get closer to our year total.

Owl Pellet Detectives

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Earlier this week the 1st Yapton & Ford Scout Group HQ was transformed into a wildlife detectives lab where Yapton Cubs  were set the challenge to find out what our Northwood barn owls like to eat.

To do this they simply needed an owl pellet to dissect.  Ranger Hannah was at hand to assist as she’d been out earlier that day to collect some.  Pellets were handed out and the cubs got to work.

If you didn’t already know, pellets are the undigested parts of a bird’s food, such as hair or bones, which are regurgitated (coughed up through the beak).  During the session, several rodent skulls were carefully removed and the group could identify that field vole and common were the most popular meal for our active barn owls.

Not only owls produce pellets, kestrel and sparrowhawk do too, even crows and sparrows.  Although the pellet will look very different depending on what the bird eats. To find out more about barn owls and their pellets go to the Barn Owl Trust website:


Bramble and Barbed Wire Fencing – Ugh!

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The South Downs National Park Volunteers were out in Northwood last Friday, having a break from tree planting and tree guard construction and trying their hand at widening one of Northwoods bridlepath verges.

Before work commenced, there was a bramble hedge looming over the bridleway, stopping light from reaching the once grassy verge. Our task was to cut back the bramble to where an old stock fence was hiding, remove the fencing and then roll back any off the remaining bramble over to the other side of the hedge.  By widening this verge, we are creating more open ground habitat.

Sounds easy eh….well that’s what we though before we started but as we soon discovered, the bramble was very spikey and so was the barbed wire fencing hidden in the middle.  Not to mention the mass of stock fencing buried in the ground.  But we ploughed on through and got it done.

We didn’t want to remove the entire line of bramble as it provides cover and shelter for nesting birds and protection for small mammals (such as harvest mice) from predators. As well as a food supply in late summer and autumn with their juicy blackberries.  Did you know that bramble is the food plant to over 60 moths!

After a few grass verge cuts and some raking off, a strip of grassland will gradually appear and in time we will hopefully see a range of sun loving plants and insects benefiting from this new habitat.  Thanks to the South Downs National Park Friday team for all their help.

Happy New Year!

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For our first volunteer task day of 2017, we headed out to finish the last of the ‘beating up’ in the Northwood planted area (War. Ag Field 3). The tree growth within the deer fence fared well throughout 2016 so we decided to plant just 10% of the original number of trees that were planted back in winter 2014/15.  This totaled to about 1,500 trees.  Despite a little bit of rabbit damage around the perimeter, the rest of the trees looked pretty healthy before autumn stripped them of their leaves.  Those trees closest to the fence perimeter may just need a bit more tender loving care in the form of plastic spiral guards.

Dark skies looming...........Blue skies behind!Towards the end of the volunteer task day, we were encouraged to speed up the last of our planting when we looked up and saw the colour of the sky!

We still need to plant 1000 saplings in other areas of the project site but no need to worry as we have Yapton Primary School, Year 4 and 5 coming out to help us in February/March. Last year they joined us and planted about 200 saplings and are very keen to beat their last total, we’ll let you know how they get on!

If you would like to join us for our monthly task days please get in touch.  We’ll be meeting again on Wednesday 15th February.

The tree planting season is upon us

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Now the temperature has dropped and the leaves have fallen, we can finally start this seasons tree planting in Northwood.

[[Our target this winter will be to plant 2,500 tree saplings and we’re already getting stuck in. Last weekend we had the Crawley Scouts and Chichester Conservation Volunteers join us for the day to give a helping hand. The ground was a little frosty to start with but it thawed out quickly and we got about 500 saplings heeled into the ground before the day was over.

Our NT Northwood volunteers have also been out a couple of times to help. Yesterday between 6 of us, we managed to plant 170 trees. The mince pies and mini chocolate yule logs certainly kept the energy levels up!

Amongst the trees planted were whitebeam, field maple and small-leaved lime. We were also planting scrubby species such as hawthorn and spindle.

Most of the trees have come from Mill Farm Tree Nursery in Bury, the rest came from our own tree nursery in Northwood. We’ve been growing trees from seed but have also been taking unwanted saplings from the Slindon Village area. Slindon CoE Primary School had a mini invasion of hawthorn and spindle in their Wildlife Garden a couple of years ago so we moved then over to our tree nursery. This week we finally planted them in their new Northwood home to grow with the rest of the young woodland.

Keep an eye on the blog as we’ll be putting up our 2017 task dates and tree planting sessions very soon.

In search of seeds and saplings

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Whist waiting for the tree planting season to really kick in (hopefully by December!), we’ve been keeping ourselves busy in Northwood with seed collecting, tree guard construction and guarding up of natural regeneration.

Searching for acorns with buckets at the ready

The Northwood Volunteers have been giving their best squirrel impersonations by searching through surrounding trees and shrubs such as oak, beech and hawthorn for nuts and berries. Not to hide and forget about, but to scatter in designated areas of Northwood.  This direct seeding can help create a woodland with a more natural appearance with a variety of spacing between the tree species.  It also allows the seeds to reach a further distances from the tree they came from, that’s if the voles don’t get to them first!  Some seeds were saved and taken back to our tree nursery for some extra tender loving care.  Once they have germinated and grown on a bit, they’ll be taken out to join the rest of the growing woodland.

Leading on from this, we’ve been out looking for those saplings that have germinated through natural seed dispersal.  Then placing a tree guard over them once we’ve spotted one amongst the grasses. By doing this, we’re protecting them from grazing animals such as deer and rabbit.  Once the trees are established, the guards will be removed.

Volunteers Anne and Dave 'guarding up' a young oak, protecting it from the local deer population

The South Downs National Park Volunteers also joined us for a day to construct one of our 5ft chestnut tree guards as part of our wood pasture creation. When we arrived on site, we were very grateful to find that the 1st Air South Bersted Scouts had already dug the four 2ft holes for us from a previous task day, giving us more time to finish some other jobs afterwards– thanks guys!