April Showers bring May flowers

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After a busy few months I was off at the start of the May on a jolly holiday and left my Northwood volunteers in the capable hands of our Assistant Ranger Sam. With a change of Ranger came a change of scenery for the Northwood volunteers as they were due to split some of our coppiced sweet chestnut for making tree stakes. Unfortunately the weather conspired against them and they ended up erecting deer proof fencing around the coup. This meant that our Thursday volunteers were provided with the opportunity of splitting the chestnut and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

My return still felt like I was on holiday as I was allowed to sit in the back of a series 1 Land Rover and be driven across the estate as part of a series 1 Land Rover Rally. This was also an opportunity to stop at Northwood and explain the project to a new and interested audience.

One of the biggest changes to have happened to Northwood over the recent months is the erection of stock fencing to surround 3 of the fields. This is so we can convert the land into wood pasture, another priority habitat. This also means we can maintain the views from the project. To accompany this fencing we therefore need access gates and part of this job has fallen to the Rangers. We all set out one sunny Monday morning full of energy for Gate Day Part 1. The installation of 4 large oak gate posts and 2 gates was quite a mammoth undertaking and it proved to be when the digging began. Several hours later and many achy arms later we had 3 posts in and one gate hung. It is true that too many cooks spoil the broth, and that we don’t always get it right, alas 2 of our posts were mere inches to close together, and thus the gate wouldn’t latch properly. Another day another slightly altered group of Rangers returned to the scene of the crime for gate day part 1.2 to dig up and replace the 2 incorrect posts. This was accomplished rather less painfully than first thought, however it still resulted in many an achy arm. Finally the 2 gates were up and all posts in the right place. Success. Now I only need to convince (bribe them with cake) to help me with the final 2.

Our Wednesday volunteer group had a rather less painful affair in helping me to remove the invasive species such as sea buckthorn and buddleia. We have removed these species in particular as they are beginning to spread and take over. You can’t complain when you get to wander amongst the newly growing trees in the sunshine, surrounded by many colourful flowers. And what a month May has been for wildflowers and animal sightings. We’ve stumbled upon a hare form and even a baby roe deer was discovered in the fields. As for flowers the fields have been yellow with dandelions and hawk’s-beard; speedwells, orchids, broom rape and wild strawberries. Northwood wild strawberry jam anyone?

As well as discovering all things above the ground we have also explored what is hidden below the ground. The Worthing Archaeology Society (WAS) joined us for a week of digging in WA2 to try and help further uncover the secrets revealed the year before. Digging in a field surrounded by flowers and friends isn’t a bad way to spend a bank holiday. It wasn’t long before the gazebos went up not initially to keep the sun off their backs and then to keep the rain out of the trenches. Lots of exciting things were uncovered over which they could puzzle. More information on their finds will be given later, when they’ve had a chance to process the whole experience.

As for processing experiences I’m still coming to terms with getting to ring blue tit and Marsh tit chicks. These chicks were those found in our nest boxes that we installed over the winter.

The 1st Yapton & Ford Cubs came out and enjoyed a scavenger hunt on the way to the nursery, where they helped me out by weeding around the growing trees to give them more space. In the short amount of time they got a lot done, including pulling a thistle almost the same size as them. On the way back they were instructed to find something to remind them of Northwood and the session to contribute to a floor tree mural. Thanks for coming and helping.

As for Slindon Primary School I have continued helping out with their forest school programme and we have been making our own bug hotel (as labeled), the winner (not pictured) being crowned ‘Bugingham’ Palace. The children have also been learning about the different trees in the forest, such as Oak, Holly, Ash and Beech.

20180517 - bug Hotel

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