It is a pleasure (and a relief!) to announce that we now have approximately 140 sheep grazing on Pheasant Field. The sheep will now be on the meadow in two phases. They will be removed on Friday 12th or Saturday 13th and are planned to return for another week on Monday the 22nd.
It is nearly 15 years since sheep were last on this meadow, they are an important part of our meadow restoration project, and we are very grateful to the local farmer whose sheep they are. Our thanks also go to the South Downs National Park for their very practical help, and to the Hassocks Amenity Association for their support and encouragement. Thanks also to the many dog walkers we have spoken to for their understanding and support.
Please see the map in the post below for the layout of our electric fence. The public footpaths in the meadow are open, as is the informal path from Butchers Wood. Access to Lag Wood is unchanged.
We will be erecting a temporary electric fence in Pheasant Field in order to allow sheep to graze the meadow. The fence is planned for this weekend but this may extend into next week. Access to Lag Wood and Pheasant Field will not change but walkers will not be able to use some of the informal paths on the north and west sides of the meadow.
The public footpaths in the meadow will remain open, a gate in the electric fence will be installed at the end of the footpath running across the centre of the meadow. The map shows the layout of the fence.
The sheep should be arriving next week and will be in Pheasant field for ten days or so. While sheep are in the meadow please keep all dogs on leads, and don’t allow them, or anyone, to touch the electric fence. Please make sure you close the temporary gate after you if you are walking on the footpath through the centre of the meadow.
The use of sheep for winter grazing is an important part of meadow conservation and we are very grateful for your cooperation. This is a big step for us and we hope everyone will join us in wishing this to be a great success.
We realise we posted an article over a year ago proclaiming the imminent arrival of sheep. But this time we think we have everything we need to actually do it! We’re keeping our fingers crossed.
Stuck in the mud
You may have noticed our shepherd’s hut which we managed to tow all the way from Kettering on Friday. Unfortunately we only got it a few yards onto our track before it would go no further. We’ll have to wait until the mud dries out a bit before we move it to a less obtrusive location. We’ve chopped back some of the brambles to avoid blocking the footpath.
We were unable to put sheep on the meadow last September. We had gates made to allow access into the wood through the temporary electric fence, but these arrived too late for the sheep. So we’ll be trying it again this September, hopefully with more luck!
Many people have asked about the sculpture of otters on the fallen oak branch by the stream. It is called “The Raft” and is by our friend Piers Mason. See http://piersmason.co/gallery.html .
Restoring the meadow for wildflowers remains our priority and to help us cut back the grass we are hoping to put sheep on the main part of the meadow for several weeks in late September and October. We will be installing a temporary electric fence between the meadow and Lag Wood, with gates to allow access to the wood. All dogs will need to be kept on leads while sheep are in the meadow. There will be warning signs to remind dog-owners when sheep are present.
The sheep need to get to the stream to drink and we’ll be cutting back some of the thistles and brambles to improve access for them. We also need to cut back thistles and brambles in other parts of the meadow. This is a tricky subject as these are a huge food source for birds, butterflies and many other invertebrates. So we intend to manage them in rotation to ensure these habitats are preserved but not allowed to dominate the meadow. This will mean removing some parts of the blackthorn thickets and many of the saplings that have started to grow in the meadow itself.
A very big thank you to the many people who gave their names as volunteers at the HAA AGM. We will be in contact when we have finalised our plans regarding sheep and fencing, we may well need your help.
In case any of you were alarmed to hear the unusual sound of a chainsaw in Lag Wood on Wednesday, we called in Laurence from South Downs Tree Surgery to tackle a couple of urgent safety issues. We’d been advised that a huge Ash branch in the North East corner of the wood, which had partially snapped & fallen, was being supported by two small trees, which would not withstand its’ two ton weight much longer. Laurence also cleared two much smaller willow trees, which had fallen across the main path, in preparation for the Downlands Dash Fun Run tomorrow.
If you’d like to help us this weekend, please get in touch by replying below. It’s 80% done but it’s very important that we try & rake the rest of the cut grass up as soon as possible, before it composts or new grass grows through it, to reduce the fertility of the meadow & encourage wild flowers.
A big ‘thank you’ to Giles & family, Ken, & Margaret for helping last weekend.
A huge thanks to all the volunteers at the weekend. You made a real difference to helping us restore The Pheasant Field to the flower meadow that it should be. We’ll be back raking at the weekend. If you would like to come and help us please reply in the comments box below.
And a massive thank you also goes to our fantastic team of scythers who came from all over the country to work in the meadow. It was a sight that has not been seen in rural Sussex perhaps for many decades. Watching them work and listening to them talk about scything has been an extraordinary experience for us.
It was a massive job, even for seven scythers but around three quarters of the meadow was cut. They’ll be back in September for a second round. Our team was Beth, Gemma, Phil, Chris, Petra, Iain and Andrew. All these friendly, enthusiastic and dedicated people are keen to promote scything, if you want to learn more they can be contacted via Beth Tilston at www.learnscything.com . And see also www.scytheassociation.org .