On the 26th of June, eight members of staff from the Body Shop Head office in Littlehampton came out to help with the Rise of Northwood project. Over the last 10 years there have been quite a few days where they have come out to Slindon to help with woodland management but this would have been the first time they have helped create new woodland.
The task of the day was to find naturally regenerating tree saplings and then protect them with tree guards in the northeast corner of War Ag Field 3. This is the opposite side of the field to what was started earlier in the year. Without the guards the trees are vulnerable to being browsed by deer. The tree shelters give them the opportunity to grow up to a height away from passing nibbling mouths. Tree species that were found included; Ash, Beech, English oak, Hawthorn and Willow.
The weather proved to be hotter than forecasted which meant the fields was buzzing with insects and many different species of butterfly.
The fields are now alive in butterflies particular those belonging to the brown family, which to me is a sign of high summer. This family includes Meadow brown, Ringlet and Marbled White which can all be seen in the previous set aside land as well as a few individuals venturing out into the more recent farmland. All of these butterflies lay their eggs on or near grasses as the catterpillars use them as their foodplant.
Although much of War Ag Field 3 will be planted with trees in the winter of 2014/15 large swathes of grassland will be kept allowing these butterflies to flourish in the future. Another butterfly that is beginning to colonise the fields is the colourful Small copper. This butterfly is known to colonise abandoned arable land as its caterpillar food plants are docks and sorrels which are to be found in this particular habitat.
Beech seedlings have been appearing around the perimeter of the fields in the last two weeks in good numbers. It is not really surprising see as we had a large seed producing autumn on most tree species including beech. Good mast years only occur every few years with beech but the autumn of 2013 is one to remember.
Beech seeds are fairly heavy and there dispersal method is to just fall to the ground. This means that naturally occuring seedlings occur usually within 20 metres of the parent tree. Maybe due to the repeated strong winds of the autumn and winter the seeds may have travelled further than on most years.
Beech are one of the most easy to distinguish seedlings due to the pair of leaves which are known as Cotyledons.
Soon after the cotyledon appears, fresh green beech leaves appear.
These seedlings are under threat from being eaten by many species of animal from small mammals such as voles to the larger fallow deer. We have placed some rabbit spirals over some of these seedling to encourage them to get away. Also where a limb came off a tree during the winter storms of 2013/14 and fell into one of the fields we have decided to leave it in situ. This meant that the tree seeds could all stay in an area and also the branches will protect the seedlings from browsing deer.
If you have been out walking in the restoration area you may have noticed that sheep have been grazing some of the fields. The sheep and lambs belong to Gaston farm who are using the fields as an additional grazing area.
The grazing is helping the restoration by:
1: Grazing off some of the arable crops that have grown back.
2: Helping to establish a short grassy sward over some of the important areas of archaeology. These areas will be kept as glades rather then planting trees or allowing trees to naturally regenerate.
In the northwest corner of War Ag Field 3 there has been some set aside land that has been left for around 8 years when the rest of the field was cultivated. In this area there have been trees naturally colonising the field for some time however these saplings have been repeatedly browsed by the local deer population. To help these trees get away we have started to place 1.2m tree guards over these saplings. We have been helped by our regular volunteers on Tuesday and Thursdays as well as a group of volunteers from Harrow who stay at our basecamp every year.
The trees we have tubed up so far include: English oak, Beech, Ash, Field maple, Hazel, Silver birch, Hawthorn and Blackthorn. We hope that after 4 years we will be able to take off the guards and maybe even re use them else where in the project. Most of the tree guards we have used have been ones we have reused from the post 1987 storm plantings.
On Thursday the 1st of May we officially opened a new permissive path crossing War Ag Field 4. The rain held off as around a dozen people came out to see the opening of the new route and try the path for themselves.
War Ag Field 4 field will be allowed to naturally regenerate, using the existing woodland as a seed source. It is important to protect young trees from browsing deer, so we have erected a deer fence around the perimeter. The fence will have a strong impact on the landscape but after 10 years the trees should have grown to a sufficient height that we can take it down.
Today on the 1st of May we launch our leaflet detailing our proposals for Northwood. You can pick it up from our information points at, Duke’s Road, Park Lane and Bignor Hill car parks, and the Forge Village Shop. We have also placed a new information point at the end of Nore Wood Lane where you can also pick up the leaflet.
Alternatively if you can’t wait you can download it here.