Will the opening date be too early this year?
Trying to set the opening and closing dates each year for the Arlington Bluebell Walk & Farm Trails is an unenviable job, as it always depends on the English weather and whether spring is early or late! The dates are chosen back in November to give ample time for the charities to ensure their volunteers are available and have not booked holidays! Initially I was thinking that perhaps we should have opened for the Easter Weekend as everything seemed to be growing fast as this photo shows how prolific and forward the bluebell leaves appear...
and the first primroses in flower.
Unfortunately we now have to factor in how ‘The Beast from the East’ will affect them, with heavy snow likely plus a persistent cold easterly wind, all forecast for an indeterminate period! This image of the Lower Pond, now replenished with recent heavy rain, is covered in ice, the first time for some years, so we wonder how all this will affect the timing as to when the bluebells and white wood anemones start to flower.
All will be revealed in my March Blog!
On the west side of Beatons Wood we were fortunate to buy ¾ acre of land including an area that was originally part of our ancient wood, making our new boundary the middle wire of the overhead electricity cables. Having no visible fence line, this gave us an opportunity to erect a small experimental stretch of deer fence.
The various species of deer unfortunately have no natural predators, so are greatly increasing in numbers causing long term damage to young trees and coppice by their browsing. I remember many years ago attending a course on coppicing in West Sussex, with extensive talk on measures to protect the new coppice from being damaged by deer, but when I mentioned we never saw deer they said just ‘wait and see’. How right they were! So, with Abbots Wood nearby we often now see them around and they will increase in numbers, in spite of the Forestry Commission having a culling policy. The eventual aim will be to enclose Beatons Wood in such a way that it does not look overpowering and also importantly deals with the various access points we have for the different Walks, which I calculate is currently eight. The photograph shows that the bottom of the fence is dug into the ground as, talking to other wood owners, this must be done to discourage badgers from burrowing under the fence, which in turn would allow the smallest deer we have in this country, the Muntjac, to gain access. Another reason why we have to think about the perimeter fence to Beatons Wood is that eventually wild boar, which are already in this county near Rye, will arrive at Arlington and their favourite food are bluebell bulbs!
In 1982 we were fortunate to meet Stan Evans, a dedicated wild bird enthusiast, who agreed to erect and maintain nest boxes in Beatons Wood. Some 36 years later he is still doing it, currently maintaining about fourteen boxes. Each year he sends me a summary of the total number of eggs laid and the resulting fledglings that help to maintain bird numbers in Beatons Wood. I have totalled up the numbers since 1983 and through his efforts over 3300 young birds have flown from his boxes, which is just short of 100 a year - a remarkable result. So I would like to thank him publicly for being so conscientious in all the work he has done here over all those years. The main birds that now use his boxes are the Blue tits and Great tits but in the past he records having had nuthatches rearing their young in two of the years. It is not an easy task as many boxes constantly need replacing or repairs due to the predation mainly from grey squirrels, but also weasels and the greater spotted woodpeckers.
The photo shows the metal plate round the entrance hole, which does help to repel the squirrels but not woodpeckers or weasels. Careful siting of the boxes is needed as they must not be visible from the paths in the wood, otherwise visitors looking in them could cause the nests to be abandoned. Preferably they should face north east, thus protected from the prevailing wind and direct sunlight.
My aim is to try and have the next Blog posted at the end of March.
This message was added on Wednesday 28th February 2018
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