It is autumn again and this year’s coppicing is under way. Our woodsman Jake (left), ably assisted by Jethro (right) are coppicing a coupe between the main ride and the cinder path. They will be here on Fridays and if you are asked to avoid the area while felling takes place, please do so and avoid allowing any dogs into the coupe when they are working.

This might be our last coupe for a few years. By the end of this season we will have coppiced nearly half of Lag Wood and it is time to take stock of the impact we have had on the diversity of trees and flora, and on the age-structure of the wood. There are some other reasons notably Chalara ash dieback. Infected trees pose an increased risk for woodland workers while felling and their safety is paramount. We have removed any risks to the railway line and to public rights of way. Our policy now is to let nature take its course.

The progress of Chalara Ash Dieback is changing the wood quite significantly now. While we are very sad to lose most of our beautiful ash trees to disease, Chalara is thinning out the canopy and improving conditions for a new generation of many types of tree to grow. We want to take the time to understand this process in more detail and review what the future role of woodland management should be. However, we will continue rotational coppicing along the sides of the “rides” in the wood as these, like our coppice coupes, have become  very interesting habitats for an increasing variety of woodland flowers and saplings.

Scything and the art of conversation

Photo by Phillipa King

In many parts of this country anyone holding a razor sharp steel blade attached to a pole would find themselves invited to a night in the cells, swiftly followed by an unenviable encounter with the magistrates.

Here it is nothing more than a good conversation starter, and what good conversations we have had. These local woods and the meadow are more than just a place to walk the dog. People come here for quality time with the children, spiritual connections with nature, respite from traumatic events in their lives, or just out of a love of beauty and wild things. Or indeed all those things at once. It is only by talking to people that we have come to understand how many things bind us all to the natural world.

In these days of lockdowns and social distancing, having some fresh air and a walk in the woods has taken on a new importance for a great many people. All we ask of you is that you have respect for these places, and help us to preserve them for everything that calls them home, and for everyone else who visits, whatever their reasons.

Try and leave no trace except your footprints. And if you meet a bloke with a scythe don’t worry, I really am quite friendly.

Some Belated Thank Yous

Phillippa and Volunteers on the 10th October

Above, I cannot remember how many times we have said thank you to Phillippa Morrison-Price and the SNDPA volunteers, but, however many times we have said it, it is not enough. Covid-19 and the social distancing rules meant that only two volunteers could make it this time. They arrived under their own steam and came all the way from Stratford to cut blackthorn in the meadow as part of our coppicing plan for Brown Hairstreak butterflies and meadow conservation. And a very able and enthusiastic team they made. Thank you so much. Most of the cut blackthorn found its way to Butcher’s Wood to make dead hedging.

And another belated thank you Juliet Merrifield and the HKD volunteers, lead by Alistair Whitby of the Ouse and Adur Rivers Trust, for rebuilding the debris dams along the stream. For us, these dams benefit biodiversity by extending the number and variety of aquatic environments in the stream. And, after months of unusually consistent and frequently heavy rain last year Hassocks noticeably did not flood. Whether or not this was  due to the presence of debris dams along the water courses only experts can tell. But it seems a good mark in favour of this economical and very environmentally friendly means of controlling water flows.

11th October, The volunteers added two more dams to the collection, such as this one