Sheep – Mission Accomplished

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Tom loading the sheep into his double-decker trailer with “trainee” sheep dog Reg (right)

Tom’s sheep have completed their mission to munch in Pheasant Field and have departed literally for pastures new. We’re glad to report that their two-week sojourn on the meadow passed without incident. We’re very grateful to dog-walkers for keeping their dogs on leads and everyone for giving our wooly munchers a happy and contented time. The sheep fence is de-activated but will stay in the meadow for a few days until Tom comes to collect it.

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Sheep in the meadow

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Fifty-three very charming looking sheep arrived bang on time on Tuesday courtesy of their owner Tom Parry and his dog Reg. These are Jacob sheep, an old English breed originally found on great landed estates from the 17th Century and were much more common in the centuries following.

If you are walking dogs in the meadow, please keep them on leads. This is for the safety of your dog as well as the sheep. If dogs sniff the fence they will get a severe shock and are likely to bolt. We aim to make life as undisturbed as possible for the sheep so they can get on with their very important job of eating grass.

“Conservation grazing” with sheep is a very good means of maintaining grassland. It helps us to manage meadow fertility and opens up the dense tussocks to allow the development of a greater variety of grasses, flowering plants and insect life. They are scheduled to leave on Christmas Eve, assuming they have eaten enough grass.

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Tom Parry and Reg

 

 

Sheep Tuesday

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A big Lag Wood thank you to Tom Parry, grazing manager at the Sussex Wildlife Trust and proud owner of a flock of very distinctive Jacob Sheep. Fifty-five of them will be on part of Pheasant Field from Tuesday (10th of December) for about two weeks. A sturdy electric fence was installed yesterday by volunteers from the South Downs National Park and a big thank you to them as well, especially as they took the time to do some bramble and blackthorn management for us. Well done everyone.

PLEASE NOTE: we will be asking all dog walkers to keep all dogs on leads while sheep are in the meadow. No exceptions please.  The meadow is Pheasant Field between Butcher’s Wood and Lag Wood. The public footpaths crossing the site are unaffected. We will be erecting some temporary signs to warn people.

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Lead Ranger Phillippa Morrison-Price with South Downs National Park volunteers. Tom Parry is far left in the beanie hat.

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SDNP volunteers clearing bramble by the track.

 

Hut Gone!

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After 6 years looking very at home in the meadow, our wonderful shepherd’s hut has moved. It has now taken up residence in the garden of Woodbine Cottage where we hope it will have a long and happy life. Many thanks to Cliff and Jake for helping us move it.

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The Blackthorn Crew

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Anyone who volunteers their Saturday for cutting back blackthorn deserves a round of applause. Blackthorn’s dense dark thickets and inch long razor-sharp thorns are enough to test the most dedicated conservationist. Even more so when the whole idea is to let it grow back again.

But there is a point to all this effort. Blackthorn is highly invasive in open, sunny meadows like Pheasant field and would soon drive out the grassland if we did not keep it in check. But it is also excellent habitat, especially for small mammals and nesting birds. Just as importantly, young blackthorn regrowth is a breeding habitat for Brown Hairstreak butterflies. We rarely see these butterflies but we know they are here because we find their eggs on blackthorn shoots in winter. Our five-year rotating plan for cutting blackthorn ensures that there is always some young regrowth to allow Brown Hairstreaks to breed. This session of cutting was the fifth year of its operation. So it’s back to the start next autumn!

We could not do this without volunteers and it’s a huge thank you from us to everyone who came on Saturday including SDNP lead ranger Phillippa Morrison-Price who makes these wonderful things happen. Phillippa can be found on Twitter at @Ranger_sdnpa

Debris Dams

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Thank you to HKD Transition for restoring the debris dams in Lag Wood – and creating a few more! Debris dams are made from fallen small trees and branches and sometimes any other natural materials that come to hand. They are simple to make and are held in position by a few stakes in the stream bed. They are designed to slow down the flow of water in the upper part of river catchments to prevent sudden flooding downstream at times of very heavy rainfall. For most of the year they let water flow freely.

Debris dams can have many ecological benefits, they increase the variety of aquatic and semi-aquatic habitats and can improve biodiversity as a result. They have very few adverse impacts because they mimic what happens naturally in woodland streams. We now have six of them in the wood; three in the stream bed and three along several of our old drainage ditches.

For more on HKD Transition please see https://www.hkdtransition.org.uk/