Coppicing

We are very pleased to say that we have started coppicing in Lag Wood, following the approval of the Forestry Commission who gave us the go-ahead last week. The permission extends to limited coppicing within conservation guidelines. We are coppicing a central section of Hazel in order to restore a former woodland ride which has become overgrown.

The work will be undertaken by a young woodsman called Jake who recently qualified under the Small Woods Apprenticeship Scheme. Jake will be working on several days in the next three weeks. Please keep dogs on leads when in the wood you see our signs on the stiles. This is for Jake’s health and safety as he will be using a chainsaw and other sharp implements. Hazard tape will be used where Jake is working.  Please do not enter these areas.

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A huge thanks to the Monday Group for clearing this section of public footpath where it enters the meadow from Misty Bridge. Just below the surface in this picture is the old hardened track that once ran from the bridge to Woodbine Cottage. It should be a lot firmer to walk on and less steep where walkers have hitherto had to clamber up the slope to the stile. Next week the Monday Group will be clearing the brambles along the old track to where it joins the existing footpath a little lower down.

We are in discussion with Ian Weir and Les Campbell of the Hassocks Parish Council about how to improve other parts of the public footpaths which have become very muddy this year.

Woodland Management

Some work will be taking place in the Lag Wood and Pheasant Field on Monday 2nd of February to clear paths of large fallen trees and other hazards. This will involve the use of a chainsaw and other tools. For everyone’s safety, please keep your dog on a lead and avoid disturbing anyone working in the wood or meadow.

Blackthorn

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Yesterday we worked with a team of volunteers from the South Downs National Park to remove a large quantity of Blackthorn from the eastern margin of Pheasant Field. Removing blackthorn from the meadow margins is an important means of ensuring that the meadow survives a grassland into the future. A huge thank-you from us to South Downs National Park Ranger Phillippa Morrison-Price and the volunteers for all their efforts yesterday. Walkers may notice that we have left a section of younger Blackthorn in place while removing the older bushes behind. This is because there are many wildlife conservation issues to be taken into account.

Only 2% of the UK’s former hay meadows have survived into the 21st century. Over the last fifteen to twenty years Pheasant Field has lost nearly 20% of its grassland to bramble and blackthorn encroaching on its margins. This growth can be very vigorous and a big part of our plan to restore the meadow is ensuring that this encroachment does not get any worse. The meadow grasses in Pheasant Field provide a major food resource for invertebrates and many of them form a fundamental part of the diet of our birds and mammals.

But removing blackthorn and bramble is not a straightforward process. These large impenetrable thickets form an ideal habitat for nesting birds and small mammals. Blackthorn is also an essential part of the life cycle for many invertebrate species. And some of these plant-insect relationships are very specific. The larvae of the Brown Hairstreak butterfly for example, feed almost exclusively on young Blackthorn while the adults require mature Ash trees to complete their mating cycle.

The management of these margins is intended to conserve the grassland and at the same time provide the widest possible variety of habitats on the grassland margin. Following the advice of the South Downs National Park and West Sussex County Council ecologist Ben Rainbow, we decided to remove a large section of older blackthorn from the eastern edge of the meadow while retaining the younger blackthorn growing in front of it. The plan is to allow the blackthorn to re-grow and in the coming years remove the blackthorn that was left standing yesterday.

Sheep

The sheep have now left Pheasant Field having eaten more or less everything they could eat. It has been a great experience for us, and hopefully the sheep liked it too. We miss them already. A very big thank you to everyone involved in the project and for all the kind remarks from those of you who came to take a look. We hoping to bring the sheep back in the autumn.

The electric fence has been taken down and all that remains is a gate somewhat surrealistically standing in an empty field. We’ll move it when there a bit less mud.

Sheep Arrived!

Sheep on Pheasant Field

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.