Changing seasons

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The mornings are feeling crisp and the days are getting shorter – autumn is finally here!

It’s been such a warm summer and all the leaves on the trees have been holding on tightly to their branches. It’s only been in the last couple of weeks that I’ve just started to notice the change in leaf colour, with some starting to litter the ground in Northwood.

We have about 2000 young trees (saplings) to plant this season but have to hold on a little longer until the leaves have shed and the temperature drops a bit more. Planting is best done at this stage because the trees will require minimal attention. Those planted will use the dormant winter season to establish new roots without having to feed their leaves.  Their water requirements will also be much lower without leaves, plus roots grow best in cooler soils.  If the temperature remains low we hope to start planting by late November….

Species will include English oak, beech, field maple and hawthorn. All our planting will be carried out by the community including local schools, after school clubs, voluntary organisations and National Trust volunteers.  Last year we had help from a variety of groups including the South Downs National Park Volunteer Rangers, Chichester Conservation Volunteers, Body Shop International and National Trust Volunteers.  Even the entire Year 5 of Yapton Primary School came out to help with the planting back in March/April and did a cracking job, putting in nearly 200 trees!

If you fancy helping with the planting this autumn/winter please get in touch for more details.



Happy Birthday ‘Rise of Northwood’

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It’s been almost three years since the ‘Rise of Northwood’ project began on the Slindon Estate.  To celebrate we’ll be holding our annual Anniversary Guided Walk on Saturday 24th September.  See the poster below for details of the event and I hope to see you there….there’ll also be cake at the end.


Paint brushes and stencils at the ready

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This week we held our summer Crafty Little Creatures event in Northwood, again a complete contrast to last years event – which had to be cancelled due to wet ground!

This year the marquees were put up for shade rather than for down pours  and even with the extreme heat, we still had some very energetic artists amongst us.  Our crafty little creatures created a range of nature related works of art from ladybirds and bumblebees to clay hedgehogs and decorated Green Man faces.  We even had a woodland poem about spying on a fox!

These summer events have been a lot of fun to organise and run (thanks again to our dedicated volunteers for all their help), but most importantly they have been a great opportunity to connect children with nature and their local woodland – particularly Northwood as these children will be the ones who’ll watch this new woodland grow.

Bears seen in Northwood

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Alice showing off her hula hoop skills

The sun shone during our annual Teddy Bears Picnic last week, a huge contrast to last year’s event (heavy down pours and soggy sandwiches). We had an activity packed afternoon in Northwood including hunting for hidden treasure, face painting, as well as lots of teddy related fun such as teddy zip wire and numerous lawn games.  Unfortunately, due to the very dry weather we only found one snail for our snail racing so we decided it was a bit unfair to race him on his own so we set him free!

A big thank you to the National Trust Volunteers for helping out with this event, they did look like they were having just as much fun as the kids. Also, thanks to volunteers Anne and Dave for test piloting the teddy zip wire from their bathroom window……

Wildlife surveying week in Northwood

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We recently had our annual Slindon Survey Working Holiday Group in to survey an array of wildlife within Northwood. This is the second year of running this Working Holiday and already we’ve gained some valuable records for the ‘Rise of Northwood’ project.

Volunteers used standardised methods to collect data which we will be able to compare with last year’s results and hopefully future results too. During the week, we used quadrats to assess the local distribution of plants, sweep nets to capture insects and box traps (using light) to entice moths.  We also walked bird transects and set up small mammal traps. All the data collected will go into our own database but will also be passed on to The Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre.  These guys collect, manage and circulate wildlife data, providing an information service for the whole of Sussex.

The highlight of the survey week for me was the sighting of two peregrine falcons during the bird survey. Not to mention the juvenile cuckoo floating around us as we were identifying flora within our quadrats.  The weather was very kind, almost too kind at times when we needed to seek shade from the midday sun.  It’s funny to think that this time last year we were having to finish the survey days early because of heavy down pours.  All these records will in time help us to manage this project in the best possible way for conservation.

A special thanks to the volunteers who took part in the survey week. I can’t thank you enough for all the records you collected, all the spear thistles you had to clamber through and for your patience with an excitable pup, Twiggy! A big thank you also to Dom from The Species Recovery Trust, Tony from Butterfly Conservation, Derek and Mike from Sussex Moth Group and Kerry, Chris and Graham from Chichester RSPB for joining us during the week and helping us to identify our collections.  Without you we would have been very stuck in places!

See the photos below for a comparison between our 2015 survey week and our 2016 survey week…..snow next year maybe?



Seeking shade from the miday sun


When it rains, it pours

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Spot the team amougst the ragwort

During July we had a few heavy downpours over Northwood – good for the growing trees but bad for the volunteers who happened to be out in it.

On a particular wet Sunday morning the South Downs National Trust Volunteers (SDNTV) arrived at Northwood to help with the ongoing task of clearing space around the young saplings, removing any weeds in the way.

Some volunteers travelled over an hour to get here so we weren’t going to give up that easily. After a quick pep talk in the car park, they set off to the Northwood fields in search of trees in need of help. Working our way through the fields we could see that hazel was easily the most successful of all the 23 species originally planted here. This isn’t surprising though as it is a drought tolerance tree and most of the trees were planted here two winters ago, shortly before we had a very dry spring.

Eventually and conveniently at lunchtime, the rain eased off and even the sun came out for a few moments. We weren’t that lucky though as we still had the odd shower throughout the afternoon but at least our sandwiches didn’t get soggy. Our hard work paid off as we spotted a harvest mouse nest at the base of some ragwort – a first record for this field. After we’d all had a look, we marked the area off and left it alone so not to disturb the occupier and home.

Breeding nests (like the one we found) are the most obvious sign indicating the presence of a harvest mouse. It’s also the only British mammal to build a nest of woven grass above ground level. It’s fantastic to see it find a home in Northwood just two years into the project.

At the end of the day a soggy group of volunteers walked back to their cars still laughing and joking, the weather never dampening their spirits – get it….

I can’t thank the SDNTV’s enough for all the hard work they put into the day and for not quitting early. They did a fantastic job and covered a lot of ground. Thanks also to Harvey (a regular Slindon Estate volunteer) for joining us for the day. A good day had by all, but maybe a bit more sunshine for when they come back next time please.

South Downs National Trust Volunteers and Harvey at the end of a very wet day - thanks for sticking with it


Wet Wet Wet

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Well the last few weeks have been a bit of a washout haven’t they? Not only have the slugs been having the time of their lives, it looks like the Northwood weeds have been enjoying themselves too.

Northwood volunteers taking on the ragwort

Of course, it’s nice to keep a few weeds, particularly for pollinating insects (it’s only a weed if you don’t want it), but the new young trees of Northwood are now desperately competing for sunlight and space because of them. How can we save them I hear you cry…..with ragforks and mulch mats.

Ragforks are specially designed for removing ragwort by the roots, greatly reducing the chance of re-growth.  This yellow flowering plant can grow quite large in the summer and could easily out-compete the slower growing trees or at least slow their rate of growth and development. Therefore we will  be targeting the ragwort growing directly next to the young trees. The degradable mulch mats will surround the base of the trees, coving the ground and prevent weed growth.  As well as suppressing the weeds, these mats will still allow water to soak through to the roots.

Over the coming summer months, we’ll be working our way through the Northwood fields in search of trees that are crying out for space. I have to thank the Northwood Volunteers and Slindon National Trust Volunteers who have already been out to help tackle these unwanted guests.  We’ve even had the Body Shop Head Office (based in Littlehampton) join in with the fun and games.  It was a particularly hot and sunny session with Bodyshop, but they trundled on through the thistles, docks and ragwort full of enthusiasm.  Chocolate biscuits may have helped them go on that little bit longer though.  Big thank you guys and hope to see you again soon.

It’s a big job to do this summer but with all the support we’ve had so far, I’m confident we’ll reach  our target area to clear and give these new trees a better chance of survival.  Our next task day is Wednesday 13th July if you’d like help us reach this goal.  I’ll keep you posted on how we get on.