What a wonderful autumn we are experiencing, with the abundance of hedgerow fruits of all sorts, plus an abundance of acorns. When we see these huge quantities, the year is classified as a “mast year”, which normally happens once or twice in each decade. There has been sufficient rain so that many trees are retaining their leaves and appear not to be stressed, especially some oak trees, which are still holding on to their vivid green leaves.
Yet the hornbeam’s leaves are turning yellow.
The paths are virtually obliterated with leaves that have already fallen, mainly from the beech, hazel and ash.
I have had to do another round of clearing freshly germinated weed grasses and new growth from established bramble roots, but each time there are less, so am slowly winning the battle!
It has been a momentous month, as the Arlington Bluebell Walk & Farm Trail has received wide complimentary publicity, generated by winning two prizes in the competition held every three years by the Sussex Branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). Some weeks back we received a smart invitation card saying we had been chosen as finalists, so could we attend the Awards Ceremony at Petworth House on 11 October! Unfortunately, my wife Carolyn, who first came up with the idea of opening Beatons Wood to the public back in 1972, was not well enough to attend, so my daughter Philippa Vine came instead. It was a memorable evening, to be able to wander freely round those large rooms with their walls packed tight with old masters, whilst enjoying delicious canapés and champagne (elderflower for car drivers!)
Lady Egremont was presenting the prizes, and we were very surprised and honoured to find that we were named as winners of the 2017 New Sussex Landscapes category thus receiving a CPRE Sussex Countryside Awards plaque.
This was already more than we had expected so we were quite overwhelmed to then receive the prestigious Peter Brandon Award, as the outstanding project selected from the finalists. Quite an eventful and significant evening for us both!
The Great Storm
This month also saw the 30th anniversary of the “Great Storm”. Overnight on October 16th, 1987, the storm severely damaged property and woodland in the South East, and Beatons Wood suffered by having around 250 mature oak trees blown over. As if that wasn’t bad enough, on the morning after the storm I was inspecting a farm building roof and for some reason fell forwards through a Perspex roof sheet, plummeting eight feet onto a concrete floor. I was in hospital for a week with a severely cracked skull and took around six months to fully recover. On the plus side, now whenever I forget a person’s name I quickly blame it on my accident! The damage to Beatons Wood was devastating, as when each mature tree was blown down it also broke branches from the adjoining trees still standing. It was a dispiriting sight.
It was virtually impossible to find available tree surgeons, but one kindly came just to clear the paths and any overhanging timber, so we were able to open the 1988 Bluebell Walk. Our priority always is to ensure the safety of our visitors. That year we launched ‘The Bluebell Wood Hurricane Appeal’, which also coincided with the opening of the new Arlington Village Hall. We set up this Trust Fund under the auspices of the Arlington Village Hall, as they were a designated charity. The Appeal closed in September and raised just under £7,000 which went towards the cost of the major clearance work, once we were able to entice tree surgeons here! We did leave the fallen trees in the North-West corner, as a reminder of the damage inflicted. These two photos show both large and dead trees, lying in the same position as they fell thirty years ago during the few hours that the hurricane raged over our lovely countryside.
Next blog post
My aim is to try and have the next Blog posted at the end of November.