This is Jake Whitcroft, our woodsman and maker of our new and much admired hazel fence. The fence is constructed from locally sourced sweet chestnut posts and our own Lag Wood hazel coppiced by Jake last winter. We think this is a beautiful piece of work. We’ll coppice some more hazel this winter to continue the fence along the side of the new track. Amongst other things Jake is an expert wood weaver, he can be contacted here: https://sussexwillowcoffins.co.uk/contact-us/
Our new public footpath layout by Woodbine Cottage is now open for walkers at Lag Wood and Pheasant Field. We hope it will provide an all year-round route for walkers and enable occasional vehicle access into the meadow from Woodbine Cottage to help with scything, mowing and woodland management.
The new layout consists entirely of environmentally friendly chalk rubble locally sourced from the chalk quarry in Pyecombe run by Robins of Herstmonceux. Path construction was by Richard Miller and his son Taylor from Millers Fencing (Millers Group) in Burgess Hill (see picture below). Richard can be contacted on 07807 596184.
The part of the track from Woodbine Cottage to the meadow is not a new route. It had simply been overgrown by blackthorn for several decades. We’ve added the new section of footpath to the style by the stream to help walkers avoid the deep mud that forms every winter. We hope that this will enable us to restore this section of Pheasant Field back to grassland with a regenerated scrub habitat for birds and small mammals a few meters to the south by Lag Wood.
There are still some finishing works to do on the fencing. And we are also coppicing the ancient boundary bank by Woodbine Cottage with the hope of creating a new hedge line from the trees that are already there: mainly privet, hawthorn, hazel and some willow. Dog roses and honeysuckle should also find their way into this new hedge. Our woodsman Jake is also about to install a fence woven from our own hazel trees to screen the Cottage garden.
The chalk surface will compact and set during rain, and over the next year or two should form a very effective and durable surface. In the meantime, you can help us a great deal just by walking on it. Please feel free!
Our path constructors Richard Miller and his son Taylor
This is the start of a project to reinstate a section of the old track between the meadow and the drive to the cottage. One of its aims is to restore part of the public footpath and provide walkers with a hard surface during the winter instead of the annual mud bath.
We do not know when it acquired its hardened surface but you can see the line of the track in the white chalky area uncovered by the digger. This is the first time this part of the track has seen the light of day for around 40 years.
Due to the current lockdown this project has been slow to start and may go on for some time longer than we expected. There may be piles of earth and materials at various times, and we would appreciate it if small children were kept from climbing on them. The public right of way will remain open but please be patient if you are asked to wait a couple of minutes. Many thanks.
A big thanks to Mark (below) for removing the large piles of well-seasoned logs from the path-side near the stream. We’re keeping it local, Mark’s firewood business is Ogs Logs based in Henfield and you can contact him 07966 431930.
This is the second time that we have found growths of ivy which have been deliberately killed by someone sawing through the ivy stems. We do not know why people do this, but we can only assume that they think ivy damages trees in some way. Everyone needs to understand that ivy does no harm whatsoever to healthy trees and removing it does nothing but damage to the natural environment.
Ivy provides abundant and irreplaceable nesting habitat for small birds, it provides food and habitat for numerous insect species on which the birds depend. And it provides a late season nectar resource for bees and other flying insects. Ivy has no effect on tree health but removing it will certainly damage the health of other species. We manage this wood for the benefit of everything that lives in it and we are naturally upset by this form of vandalism, however well-intentioned people believe themselves to be.
In some countries with different ecosystems ivy might be considered an invasive species, for example, there are numerous American websites advising the removal of ivy. In this country no such problems exist and removing ivy does nothing but harm. If you are visiting woodlands and removing ivy you should desist immediately. If you know anyone who does this tell them to stop.
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.
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.
Tom Parry and Reg
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.
Lead Ranger Phillippa Morrison-Price with South Downs National Park volunteers. Tom Parry is far left in the beanie hat.
SDNP volunteers clearing bramble by the track.
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.
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