July/August 2023 Update - Bluebell Walk


July/August 2023 Update - Bluebell Walk


The Millenium Avenue leading to Beatons Wood

In 1999, The National Farmers Union (NFU) encouraged farmers to do something to mark the start of a new Millenium. One of their suggestions was to plant an avenue of native trees. I believe we were the only farmers in East Sussex to take on this visionary idea by planting an avenue of native oaks (Quercus robur). The area had been a grass field for as long as I could remember so, to ensure the success of the endeavour, we subsoiled the planting area, breaking up the compacted soil caused by years of cattle grazing and machinery. We bought the tallest young trees, measuring 100-125 cm and bare rooted, from English Woodlands, and they were planted every 4 meters to ensure they would create an immediate visual impact. As the oaks continue to grow, we are carefully removing some alternate trees to allow the remaining ones to develop strong, healthy crowns. It was not practical to use young seedlings growing in Beatons Wood, as they have a long tap root which can rarely remain intact when digging up, but English Woodlands have a growing technique, to ensure that the vital tap root is not damaged prior to planting.

Initially the sides along the Millenium Avenue were a mass of brambles and grasses, then one day I pointed out to Carolyn, my late wife, there were some blooms of Wild Daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) appearing. She told me that for the past seven years, she had been diligently spreading the seeds from a small patch she had in Bates Green Garden. Now, if you visit the garden in late February and March and take the opportunity to walk around Beatons Wood, you will witness how these daffodils have multiplied adorning both sides of the Millenium Avenue with a vibrant yellow carpet. Unfortunately, they finish blooming by the time the Bluebell Walk opens. However, Carolyn’s foresight also included planting Snakes Head Fritillaries (Fritillaria meleagris) between the oak trees. These beautiful white and mauve blooms can be seen during the first weeks of the Bluebell Walk.

This year I set out to clear the weed grasses, odd young brambles, and a multitude of docks. Armed with my trusty knife, which I inherited from my mother-in-law, I embarked on the task.

Docks   John’s trusty knife

The knife is now wrapped in distinguishing red tape, as on a few occasions it was temporally lost amongst the debris I was collecting - quite a heart stopping experience! Over the years the blade has diminished from constant sharpening, so if anyone knows where I can obtain a suitable replacement, I would be immensely grateful for the information.

(The foam cushion to protect my knees is very necessary in the Millenium Avenue as the ground is so hard, but in Beatons Wood the leaf mould built up over the centuries is remarkably soft.)

Each dock plant must be cut below its growing point, quite tedious and time consuming, but worth the effort. Beatons Wood is now mainly devoid of weed grasses and brambles, allowing the wood anemones, bluebells, and other wildflowers to flourish. Nevertheless, annual maintenance remains essential, just like tending a garden.

I’m delighted to notice that odd patches of Wild Violets (Viola sororia) are appearing which will make ideal ground cover for this area. Combined with the bluebells slowly creeping in from Beatons Wood and the Wild Daffodils and Fritillaries, the area should be an exciting spectacle throughout several months each year.


John McCutchan

  Wild violets


This message was added on Wednesday 16th August 2023

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