Self-Isolating in Glorious Countryside

Following government advice, and discussions with my dear friend Helen, I and my puss Goldie, have temporarily moved out of St.Leonards and are self-isolating with Helen at her beautiful cottage deep in the rural countryside of the High Weald.  I have lots, indeed more than enough to keep me busy – gardening, working on the advanced draft of my autobiography, reading and taking walks in the woods with her three handsome Gordon Setter dogs.

The property is set within an extensive garden with a stream flowing through it and additionally there are four acres of a large adjoining block of ancient woodland.  This is composed mainly of ash, with mature hornbeam, oak and beech with an understorey of hazel.  More about this woodland as this rolling blog continues…

 

 

A view of the woods during mid-March.

Mid-March.  The wood has been so wet this past winter!  Being situated on Ashdown Clay which provides little drainage, it’s been tricky walking along the paths but during the past week, the sunshine and drying breezes have transformed matters, we now being able to wear boots instead of the ubiquitous wellies!  This weekend, being on north-facing slope, the cottage and the woods are being buffeted by a strong and quite cold north-easterly wind, with sunshine and hail, making the air feel relatively rather bitter; we’ve resorted to firing-up the wood burner!

Monday, March 23 and another harbinger of spring made itself known – a chiffchaff calling from the tall willows and birches on the edge of the garden area.  In the woods this week the primroses at the top of the wood look resplendent with their massed two-tone pale yellow flowers being in full bloom.Small patches of the tiny, delicate moscatel are in flower with their minuscule green and yellow flowers forming small patches.  Hornbeam trees and the few hawthorn are now sporting small, delicate light-green leaves that are growing by the day.  Hornbeam forms almost pure stands in other sections of the wood; soil or possibly past harvesting practices causing the difference?

Monday, Mar 30.  Heard my first blackcap of the year.  Carried out a lot more gardening this week – I’ve worked off my small tum but the trouble is I fall asleep in front of the tv!

Friday, Apr 3.  More gardening including felling a small ash tree with only a bowsaw – phew!  Carried out some repairs to the revetment to the stream that flows under the footbridge to the cottage, and on through the garden.  A hum from the bees in the tall willows was easily audible today.  The coming anticyclone and its accompanying warmth and southerly winds should bring quite a fall of migrants over the coming days.  Reliably informed that the migration has been slow so far this spring.

Saturday, Apr 4.  The first warm and sunny day of spring! sat outside late afternoon in shirt sleeves watching the birds – great and blue tits, lesser woodpecker, chaffinch and coal tit.  Counted only four aircraft in about an hour, blissfully peaceful!

Monday, Apr 6.  After carrying out a large food shop in Crowborough we drove back over Ashdown Forest; the car parks were very quiet.  Gorse in flower; other areas of gorse having been cut, the Conservators of the Forest appear to have a monumental battle upon their hands fight the large areas of gorse.  I consider they should resort to the traditional practice of selective burns of small areas.  Conversely, reading in the RSPB’s latest update on their local reserves, they are going to create enclosures at Broadwater Warren and plant gorse.  I wonder if future wardens of the reserve will be riled by this introduction!  They have also discovered that they have the uncommon potter wasp, the nearest colony previously in Surrey.

Wednesday, Apr 8.  Saw my first brimstone butterfly today; they are not so common hereabouts? Looking through the woods, there is now a green haze with the millions of tiny leaves unfolding on the trees, especially the hornbeam and hazel.

Thursday, Apr 9.  Orange-tip butterfly seen for first time.  While sitting on the patio at about 6pm, did I fleetingly see a cuckoo fly over (or a kestrel)?  Have today started renovating a teak outdoor table; I bought on-line, a set of cabinetmakers scrapers and made a start on what will be a slow process – an antidote to self-isolation!

Friday, Apr 10.  Good Friday.  Saw my first holly blue butterfly today.

Saturday, Apr 11.  Have finished queaking the long chapter in my autobio concerning my 20 years of being involved with using Exmoor ponies for conservation grazing.  Carried out two repairs to the deer fencing around our woodland.  The neighbouring woodland has little understorey as the deer browse-off nearly all of the young saplings and flowers.  (See the two following pics).

Sunday, Apr 12.  Easter Sunday.  First small white butterfly seen, temperature reaching into the low 20’s C.  Road was very quiet today there being no shops open; very few aircraft seen today including two into Gatwick.  We spent much of the day sitting on the patio overlooking the woods, finishing off with taking dinner there in the early evening.

Monday, Apr 13.  Bank Holiday.  A strong, cold NE wind today with the sun not appearing until late-morning.  We spent a couple of hours in the afternoon plotting and marking out the un-fenced section of Helen’s boundary in the woodland.

Sunday, Apr 19.   This morning we went for a walked in the main part of the wood that is not owned by Helen and is in effect, abandoned.

It contains a few more substantial oaks and beech’s and plenty of middle-sized hornbeam and ash but little ground vegetation or saplings – anything edible being eaten by deer (they excluded form our part of the wood).  Bluebells are however are now putting in an appearance.  Found several largish medieval iron ore quarries (see below) and a piece of iron slag; hundreds of years ago this wood would have been a hive of industry.  Will go back tomorrow and take some pictures.  It’s like entering another world – on the face of it, appearing untouched by man and no outside of the wood sounds whatsoever – mystical!

Sunday, April 26.  Thought I may have heard a garden warbler singing?  Along a footpath just outside the boundary of the wood, I saw my first small copper and comma butterflies; also found the showy marsh marigold in a nearby boggy area.  I shall be returning home tomorrow, so am signing-off this particular blog.

Rewilding Making Strides Across Europe

Balkan chamois

Take a look at the following link concerning the Rewilding Europe organisation which was set up in 2011 to encourage rewilding in suitable areas across Europe, with much of the funding coming from the EU’s LIFE project.  Items in the attached link include: Rewilding of peatlands in Finland, making community forests in Portugal more wildlife friendly, the RSPB’s Wallasea Island project in Essex, the bio-diverse Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria (I have been there – fantastic!) and habitat restoration in the Oder Estuary in Germany.

https://rewildingeurope.com/category/news/

 

July Sightings

July 4.  Flock of about 20 oystercatchers perched on one of the reefs that run out here and there along the beach at St.Leonards this afternoon.

July 8.  Trained to Brighton…  Beautiful show of hollyhocks at Berwick station, real cottage flowers!  Scrub is still being allowed to increase in area at a number of locations along the Firle Escarpment Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  This is one of SE England’s major landscape features and if attitudes, government grants, and funding for Natural England staff do not change before too long, this majestic view will be lost to future generations.    In a field near Firle, saw windrows of straw from an early combined crop of cereal.    People who criticise on aesthetic grounds the Rampion wind farm some 10 miles seaward of Brighton, should turn their gaze 90 degrees and consider the factory chimney (aka i-360 attraction), parked on Brighton’s promenade!    Evening withdrawal of some evening train services meant I was stuck on Lewes station for about an hour from 8-45pm but I was rewarded by one of Nature’s spectacles.  I became aware of lots of jackdaw chatter emanating some 200m away in trees in Southover Road.  Over the next hour, wave upon wave of jackdaws came in low over the station from the south-east, many beginning to chatter on their final approach to their companions already settled amongst the crowns of the tall trees. I was left wondering how they all managed to fit into the the available space. Home at 22-45!

July 9.  Sensible dogs, and Englishmen go out in the midday sun!  Why sit on baking-hot pebbles when you can lay on cool, damp ones or even better, in the water!

July 14.  Buff-tailed bumble bees bottoms-up on artichokes on my allotment.

July 19.  during the evening, I counted some 20-24 swifts over the centre of St.Leonards.  Another couple of weeks and I guess they’ll have largely departed south.

May Sightings

And so the cool, dry spring continues without much prospect of change until towards the end of May…

May 6th and during the evening there was a group of 7 swifts hawking for insects in the cold easterly wind, high over St.Leonards old town.  Still numbers of turnstones along the beach.  May 8th and as I sat down to my breakfast, 6 swallows flew across the street at window height in that purposeful, determined flight behaviour that characterises swallows on migration, heading north-westwards.  I wished them well.

May 8th.  There’s still a reasonable population of english elms in the vicinity of the station at Pevensey.  Also nearby, are a number of trees (poplar?) with thriving plants of mistletoe high in their crowns; nice to see.

May 18th.  In the following pic, scrub-bashing with a difference!  These fellas are removing dense ivy from off the cliff face at Rock-A-nor at Hastings in order to attach steel mesh safety netting as can be seen above them.  They’re working from off ropes using pneumatically powered equipment.

 

On the same day in the evening, saw this amazing ‘barley-twist’ cloud formation.

May 24th.  There were 10 swifts over St.Leonards old town as I sat having breakfast. Went for a walk in Ham Street Woods National Nature Reserve in Kent, a lovely wood but unfortunately there appears to be not a lot of coppicing now going on – how this wood was traditionally managed.  Saw this tree which many years ago had suffered severe trauma, survived and prospered!

Nearby the entrance to the woods stands a row of four Victorian(?) cottages.  I thought they were very unusual in that the upper storey is clad all around the entire block with butt-jointed slates with strips fixed over the vertical joints.

On this jaunt I travelled by train and spotted just west of Winchelsea good and bad farming practice – the latter almost certainly contravening government/EU regulations by cultivating as close to a watercourse as physically possible.  The adjacent water must be receiving a very unhealthy cocktail of fertilizer and chemicals  First, good practice with 2 metre wide uncultivated headlands on a neighbouring farm and then the bad.  Apologies that the second doesn’t make the point very obvious but the train was going quite fast! Stile and post are on nearside of watercourse.

In the evening, saw my first painted lady butterfly; it was in beautiful condition and probably had not long arrived from across the Channel.  About 10 swifts screaming high overhead mid-evening.  I’m not religious but full marks to the Pope for giving Trump some serious reading matter today!

Dismantling in Eastbourne

Made a brief visit to Eastbourne this morning and took these pics of changes taking place within the town.  The first is the dismantling of a fine Wheatley variety of a street elm along Southfields Road due to a large cavity within it and also that it was dying from Dutch Elm Disease (DED), note the dead twigs at the extremities of its crown.  One of the tree surgeons told me that Eastbourne is fairing reasonably well with DED.

Elm trees seem to this spring have produced a very heavy crop of seed – though very little elm seed is viable, it mainly spreading by root suckers.

The second pic is of major demolition of redundant shops along Terminus Road opposite the railway station to make way for extending the Arndale Centre.  I just hope that when it comes to the interior design, they don’t replicate the boring interior of the present mall!

Magpies & Crows; Pigeons & Squirrels.

After a lot going on in my life during the past month or so including a bout of ‘flu from hell,’ I am going to try to get back into blogging, with hopefully more posts of an observational nature.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been observing a pair of magpies building their nest in the crown of a fairly large oak about 100m from my house.  But they had a problem.  The local pair of crows also thought what a good spot and hey, somebody has started the nest for us!

The magpies have persevered but with bouts of the crows landing on and around it, hounded by the clacking magpies but due to their differences in size, the magpies being wary of getting too close to the crows.  the crows appear to have now given up and as I look out the window, there is now a sizeable domed nest.

Several evening ago at about dusk, I was watching three wood pigeons foraging below bushes along the side of stream near my house.  What surprised me was that in the same small area was a grey squirrel also foraging.  I would have thought the pigeons would have been most cautious at being so close to a potential predator.

Week Ending Saturday, December 31st

On Thursday, I drove down to Seaford in the afternoon and sat in the car on the seafront for awhile. The memorable item of the day was the passage of about 100 dark-bellied brent geese flying easterly and low over the sea in two separate tight-knit formations at about 2-300m from off the busy promenade.  It was probably just a local movement as it’s far too early for them to be returning north to Siberia.  I found this both deeply symbolic and moving.

Friday, and while having breakfast, I couldn’t fail to be fascinated and enthralled by the capers of up to four grey squirrels in a large oak with an expansive crown to it a few yards beyond the garden. The way they could negotiate about this tree and the speed of their antics was almost incredible!  One came speeding down one of the main stems, actually leaping ahead at one point!  I hasten to add that i’m no great lover of grey squirrels.

Number of Trees Remaining on the Planet

October 2015 Newsletter The Latest News from International Tree Foundation.

 Humans and Trees.

A REPORT published last month by an international team of scientists contained the most detailed assessment yet of the number of trees on the planet. It estimates there are just over three trillion trees left on Earth. Since the onset of agriculture 12,000 years ago, humans have reduced the planet’s tree cover by 46%, and trees are now being cut down at the rate of 12 billion a year.

Depressing statistics – although the rate of deforestation is, at least, slowing down. But the report, based on a combination of satellite data and ground level measurements, also contains some fascinating insights into the number of trees in each all the world’s countries – and how this compares with their respective human populations. If the former is divided by the latter, a figure is arrived at which we could call the Tree Per Person Ratio, or TPPR. Considering that trees sustain life on Earth including humans, and humans are responsible for cutting them down, it seems like an important equation. According to the data the UK, with a population of 67.5 million has just over 3 billion trees which means it has a tree per person ratio (TPPR) of exactly 47. It turns out that four thousand miles or so to the south, Kenya, one of the least-forested countries in Africa, also has around 3 billion trees – but with a population of just 45.6 million, its TPPR is 67.

Britain and many other European countries lost most of their original forest cover centuries of years ago, and it could be argued that they now bear a responsibility to the rest of the world to bring more of their forests back. In Africa deforestation is a more recent phenomenon – one which, of course, is germane to ITF’s work. So we have compiled a list showing the TPPRs for all the African countries where we are supporting efforts to conserve and enhance forest cover.

COUNTRY         PEOPLE (million)         TREES (million)                TPPR

Cameroon           22.8                           19, 431                           852

Tanzania             50.7                           21, 000                           410

Malawi                16.8                             3, 000                           189

Ghana                 26.4                             4, 600                           172

Mali                    15.7                             3, 000                           166

Ethiopia              96.5                           14, 000                           143

Senegal              14.5                             1, 300                             90

Kenya                 45.6                             3, 000                             67

Uganda              38.8                              2, 000                            63

Nigeria              178.5                           10, 945                            61

Burkina Faso       17.5                             1, 000                            59

 

And the TPPR for planet Earth? According to the Yale study there are precisely 3,251,375,879,417 on the planet. At the time of writing, the human population (which is growing at the rate of about 75m per year) stood at 7,375, 354,750. This means there are trees 440.84 trees per person on Earth (or slightly less by the time you read this newsletter).