Monday, November 30, 2009

Combating climate change?

The recent spate of media activity on climate change is rapidly turning me into a grumpy old man, so I thought I would get some of it off my chest here.

My spleen was first activated by an 'independent' report for the Forestry Commission by Sir David Read et al. which seems to want to go back to the mid-20th century with a huge tree planting programme recommended in order to increase carbon capture.

I wonder where these new woods will go.  Agricultural land is likely to be needed if we are going to get halfway towards feeding ourselves, so this leaves hills, mountains, heaths, moors and bogs etc., all places that the Forestry Commission has afforested, or tried to afforest, in the past.  Remember the Flow Country?

In the case of bogs Paul Simons, writing in The Times today (30 November 2009), has pointed out that these absorb hugely more carbon than trees.  See this link.

I also get unnaturally depressed by the emerging vogue for planting trees.  Millions, apparently, will be required.  Where will they come from?  Presumably, unless they are imported, there will have to be quantities of tree nurseries (many perhaps, run by the Forestry Commission).  Good for employment and rural economies no doubt.

If fields and other land is abandoned it will, of course, turn into woodland quite quickly and of its own accord in most parts of Britain .  The Woodland Trust, with the blessing of the Forestry Commission, is already planting their new Heartwood Forest in Hertfordshire, though they must be aware of the two famous woods, Broadbalk and Geesecroft Wildernesses at the nearby Rothampsted Experimental Station that have developed on deliberately abandoned fields to mature mixed woodland without a seed being sown or a tree planted.  Trouble is, not many people were employed in creating these places - nature did it.

Not many people are employed either in making and maintaining bogs so, however much carbon they capture, I fear they will take second place to the new woods and forests, especially as the latter make much better copy for the public relations officers.

In addition to this emerging plantation psychology, the Forestry Commission is waving the flag for the introduction of various exotic species such as the Serbian spruce (Picea omorika) and the shining gum (Eucalyptus nitens).  Most of their list will, of course, be inedible to British wildlife as well as looking totally out of place in the British countryside, but it might give the FC greater control on British forestry and move the industry away from the, to them, irritating areas of conservation and biodiversity into a more disciplined industrial and commercial operation.

Talking about trees also skates round the importance of other kinds of vegetation in capturing carbon and I would not be surprised if an abandoned field garners just as much C as one planted with, say, Nordmann fir.  And the field would be a veritable wonderland for wildlife as it went through its various successional stages.


Read, D.J., Freer-Smith, P.H., Morison, J.I.L., Hanley, N., West, C.C. and Snowdon, P. (eds) (2009) Combating climate change – a role for UK forests. An assessment of the potential of the UK’s trees and woodlands to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The synthesis report. The Stationery Office, Edinburgh.  (Also on-line).

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Maidenhair trees with nuts

In the grounds of a school near Forest Row, East Sussex, I found a line of mature maidenhair or ginkgo trees (Ginkgo biloba).

20091005 Ashdown House Ginkgo 011

This remarkable species from China is a survivor from the age of the dinosaurs and the only living representative of its order.  It seems probable that the species has survived, more or less unchanged, for 270,000,000 years.

The tree above had a large crop of fruit rather like small greengages.  There is a soft, fleshy outer layer (said to smell very badly, though I didn't notice anything)  with a nut inside like a small hazel nut.

20091005 Ashdown House Ginkgo 012

Apparently the species only fruits well in Britain after warm summers.  Another manifestation of climate change?

The kernel of the seed is popular in China and Japan and it is easy to find recipes for them on the Internet.  When raw they are said to be slightly toxic (though I ate one and it had no ill effects) so they should be roasted before consumption.  All the descriptions of its taste that I have seen differ.  To my mind it was somewhere between a hazel nut and a soya bean and quite pleasant though unremarkable.

20091005 Ashdown House Ginkgo 016

Friday, September 25, 2009

Killingan Coppice in autumn

The coppice just up our road is rapidly moving into autumn mode.

20090925 Killingan Coppice autumn ferns

Many of the new sprouts from the cut stools have been grazed of by rabbits and/or deer and I expect this will get worse as winter comes in.  Brambles (see below) like thorny trip wires are spreading rapidly in some places growing flat over the ground like a blanket.  By this time next year walking through the area will probably be difficult.

20090925 Killingan Coppice bramble

In other places there is still much bare ground and, despite recent rains, no sign of any seedlings or woodland fungi.  The hornbeam and other tree species' seed that germinated in spring all seem to be doing well though.  On some of the bonfire sites the bonfire moss, Funaria hygrometrica, is growing thickly and has produced many bright orange sporophytes.

Here and there flowers are still brightening the ground like the pink musk mallow (Malva moschata) and the yellow smooth hawksbeard (Crepis capillaris) below.

20090925 Killingan Coppice Malva moschata

20090925 Killingan Coppice Crepis capillaris

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Selsey Bill Rant

Yesterday I made my first visit to Selsey and Selsey Bill in West Sussex. I had been working nearby and had half an hour or so to spare, so I made may way to this most southerly point in Sussex.

The final stretch of road ran through what was effectively a large, suburban-style estate on the road to nowhere with total coverage by bungalows, semis and the occasional grander structure, all with their nurseryman’s catalogue gardens. Chichester, the nearest large urban area, is some nine miles away. The gardens are more wildlife friendly though than the vast open fields spreading across the flat Manhood Peninsula to the north of Selsey.

Why, I wondered, had the planners allowed the end of this thrust of land to be covered in houses. Apart from the beach there seem to be few places to walk, though there is Pagham Harbour not to far distant by car.

The Bill itself is an extraordinary place. The road just runs out and there is a single metal bar to stop cars driving into the sea, plus a litter of tired street furniture and wonky fences. If people didn’t live there, the place would benefit from a good tsunami.

20090912 Selsey Bill 014

Immediately to the east of the dead end there is a playing field style open space, but everywhere else the houses and gardens encroach as closely as they can to the pebbly, breakwatered beach. Strange constructions of concrete like a parkour course allow passage on foot around the private properties and, at one place, there are some strange eyeless amphorae made of concrete and beach pebbles – perhaps an attempt to create a Mediterranean feel to the place. They reminded me of Easter Island moai staring inscrutably out to sea from their platforms.

20090912 Selsey Bill 010

Despite this wrecked landscape, the sun was warm, the sea blue with its waves eternally marching towards the shore. I even made a few wildlife records including some tiny wrack flies, Thoracochaeta zosterae, in washed up seaweed. The most southerly invertebrate records in Sussex no doubt.

Selsey Bill has a sadness about it and it is a kind of monument to our corporate inability to look after our own environment. It epitomises our disastrous tendency to want to cover memorable places with houses as though the residents can gain some sort of apotheosis by owning a bit of what might otherwise be a wonderful wild place (or the middle of a potato field). How very peculiar that the most southerly part of our area, the Land’s End of Sussex, should be part of somebody’s garden.

I think I shall start a campaign to forbid any building within half a mile of the sea (ports and harbours excepted). The state should buy existing houses as they are vacated and demolish them, allowing the land to re-wild in its own way but enabling the public to go there.

20090912 Selsey Bill 012

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Nature's symmetries

People have always been fascinated by the way an often chaotic-seeming nature produces intricate patterns of organisation.

20090906 Metre & South View 006

Recently I have bee intrigued by the roundness of ivy flowers and the way that insects, such as the fever flies (Dilophus febrilis) distribute themselves apparently in orderly fashion across the flower heads.

These insects - they all seem to be females - were in the flower heads for a couple of days then they all suddenly disappeared.

20090906 Metre & South View 021a

Caper spurge (Euphorbia lathyrus) is really a weed in our garden and does not, as sometimes suggested, drive away moles.  The leaves arrange themselves with great symmetry in four rows around the central stalk.  Very few British plants seem to be like this, but I have seen some unrelated plant species from New Zealand that are similar.

Caper spurge is not a British native but a long-standing resident species known as an archaeophyte and originally from places further south.  It is widely naturalised out side its native range.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Natural selection?

I have, this year, grown some crimson-flowered nasturtiums in a pot and, needless to say, the white butterflies soon found them.  Before long both large white (Pieris brassicae) and small white (Pieris rapae) caterpillars appeared, the large whites (below) being particularly obvious on the leaves and flowers.

20090829 South View Large white 010

20090829 South View Large white 011

This morning nearly all these caterpillars had disappeared and a couple of wasps were spotted searching the plants for more.  By the evening all I could find was a solitary small white (below) that had survived, perhaps, because of its more cryptic colouring.

20090829 South View Large white 007

Caterpillars of the white butterfly family, the Pieridae, store toxic chemicals derived from their foodplants within their bodies making them distasteful to some of their predators, mainly birds.  That is why the large white larvae feel safe to feed openly on the foodplants and have a black and yellow pattern of colour that acts as an " I taste nasty" warning.

While it may offer some protection against birds it does not stop the wasps and various other creatures that eat large white and other caterpillars, indeed the bright colour may even help them find their prey.

Since wasps and large whites have probably been around together for thousands of years, it makes one wonder about the survival of the fittest dictum.  Constant removal by wasps does not seem to have resulted in better adapted caterpillars, yet somehow they evolved to their current colour and shape.

The last laugh, perhaps, will go to the nasturtiums who have survived the onslaught and have plenty of summer time left to set seed.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Speckled bush cricket

This year seems to be a good one for crickets.  This afternoon I found this female speckled bush cricket (Leptophyes punctatissima) on a leaf of our nasturtiums.  (Much better than Mr Pooter finding a brick in the middle bed of geraniums).

20080820 BHW & South View 029

I wondered if it might be eating the burgeoning population of large white caterpillars, but apparently they are wholly vegetarian.

It is remarkable how difficult it is to see such a large insect.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

An urban walk round Hollington

I have always enjoyed walking round streets visited little except by those who live there.  Today I walked from Fern Road in Hollington on the western side of Hastings in a circuit around the eastern side of the Hollington Stream/Filsham Valley (see below).

20090715 Filsham Valley from footbridge

Note the fine stand of self-sown buddleia at the bottom of the picture.

In some places obscure public footpaths weave among the houses, usually with close-mown lawns containing a wide range of colourful short turf plants - bird's-foot trefoil, cat's-ear, self-heal, yarrow.

20090715 Westerleigh Close, Hollington 1

On one bank by a busy road I found, among the Irish ivy, a patch of fading woodruff : not a common plant in our part of East Sussex.  The Dr Pepper can adds, I feel, to the picture with a nice touch of colour

 20090715 Woodruff Hollington Park Road

Woodruff and ivy are quiet plants, but sometimes there is a hot spot, such as this duet of tufted vetch and smooth hawksbeard by a footpath.

20090715 Crepis cappillaris & Vicia cracca

Friday, July 17, 2009

Broidered bracken

Under the hedge across the lane in front of our house is a frond of bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) that is very different from the norm.

The pinnae and pinnules are congested and twisted giving the very healthy-looking frond a 'crispy' appearance.  No weed killer is used in our area, so it is not a 'herbicide morph'.

20080709 South View bracken var 038

I e-mailed the above picture to Graham Ackers, a friend from the British Pteridological Society, and he replied "I do not think this variation has been given a botanical name, but horticulturally (if anyone was foolish enough to cultivate it) this would be Pteridium aquilinum 'Crispatum'".  He adds that this form is "occasional to rare".

'Broidered' by the way was a word I made up only to discover via Google that it already exists and seems quite appropriate for my bracken frond.  Maybe I had seen the word somewhere before and tucked it into the back of my brain.  The translator of Voltaire's philosophical dictionary, for example, described love as "the stuff of nature broidered by nature" (C’est l’étoffe de la nature que l’imagination a brodée).  Not that I have actually read Voltaire's philosophical dictionary.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Amazing beetles

My tower of logs at the end of the garden is producing some wonderful insects in this warm weather.

Yesterday there were several rhinoceros beetles (Sinodendron cylindricum) and the rare 'ancient woodland' species Tillus elongatus.

20090608 South View 002

20090608 South View 013

Tillus larvae prey on woodworm larvae and other smaller beetles.  They are supposed to be largely nocturnal and therefore rarely seen (except in traps like my log tower).  All our current Sussex records appear to be from the western half of the macrocounty .  Only the females have this red and bluish black colouring: the similarly shaped males are wholly black.  Charles Darwin, no less, wondered about this sexual dimension where the female is markedly more showy than the male, but did not appear to reach any conclusion.

I wonder if that is a somewhat anthropocentric speculation.  The brighter colours in the female could be simply to do with some chemical manifestations that happen to show up in these colours and do not signify that one sex is trying to use them to catch the eye of the other.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Yellow vetch (Vicia lutea) inland

Yellow vetch is a rather rare native plant of  coastal shingle and bare open land.  One of its strongholds is the Sussex Coast in places like Eastbourne, Shoreham Harbour and Pagham.  Elsewhere it has been widely recorded as an alien.

20090615 Vicia lutea 016

The example above (identity confirmed by Paul Harmes, the East Sussex Flora Recorder) was brought to me from Barcombe by a friend who farms there.  The opened flowers are white rather than yellow, though the unopened buds have a yellowish cast.

Away from the Sussex Coast, the Ouse Valley appears to be a route that the plant is taking inland.  It has been recorded from Friston Forest and from several places in the Lewes area which lies a short distance to the south of Barcombe.  Since its arrival on the farm there it has spread to a second field.  It is described in the Atlas of British Flora as a  "Submediterranean - subatlantic species."  Maybe global warming is helping it spread northwards.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Horned treehopper (Centrotus cornutus)

I had my first close encounter with a horned tree hopper the other day.  This small sap sucking homopteran is associated with young oak trees and does not seem to be very common.

20090603 South View 001

The purpose of the 'horns', if there is one, would seem to be to frighten would be predators off as they do not seem to be a display item.

The pronotum also runs backwards over the top of the body like some alien's armour and might, I suppose, have some protective function.

20090603 South View 007

I find these complicated forms quite difficult to grasp in evolutionary terms.  If such excrescences are of value, why do so few creatures develop them.  Most homopterans, for example, have neither horns nor a backplate, nor do they appear to be on the way to developing them.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Dock bug orgy

The dock bugs (Coreus marginatus) in our garden seem to have been somewhat carried away by the hot weather.

20090531 South View 014

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mystery sorrel

I found this procumbent yellow-sorrel (Oxalis corniculata) growing in a corner of Battle market square.  It is the form with dark leaves known as var. atropurpurea.

20090511 Battle - Oxalis corniculata

It is not a native plant and, although found all over the temperate and tropical world, no one seems to know its original home.  Its success is partly due to the fact that its explosive seed pods can expel the seeds for up to 2 metres.

Like many other Oxalis species the leaves are said to be edible and can be made into a herbal tea.

Often regarded as a pernicious weed, procumbent yellow-sorrel is said, by the Royal Horticultural Society to be "strongly resistant to the range of selective lawn weedkillers."  Hooray!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Abundance of St. Mark's flies

The fields to the east of the Pestalozzi International Village in Sedlescombe were today alive with St. Mark's flies (Bibio marci).  Some hovered in the air with others of their species and often they settled on the leaves of shrubs and brambles along the field edge.  These all seemed to be males.

20090504 Pestalozzi 058

They are quite large, black flies and seem a bit threatening, but are quite harmless and indeed beneficial as they can help pollinate fruit trees.

They are named after St. Mark because they emerge around St Mark's Day, 25 April.  Prior to the 16th century calendar adjustments this was ten days earlier than it is now so 4 May is pretty much on cue.

The larvae feed on the roots of grass and decaying vegetable matter and are characteristic of old, unimproved pasture such as that at the top of North Clays on the Pestalozzi Estate.  Part of this area is a living illustration of the 'Vera Hypothesis'.

20090504 Pestalozzi 037

Here a clump of bushes and a tree have developed in an area ringed by nettles, brambles and gorse .  These have prevented grazing so that trees and shrubs can get away in the centre.

The grass outside this prickly grove is grazed by rabbits and, occasionally, by sheep and, because it is all humps and bumps, will not have been ploughed (at least not for a very long time).  Interestingly bluebells are scattered across the sward to the right of the picture and the plants are quite widely separated unlike the way they crowd together in woods.

It makes me wonder if the bluebell was originally a plant of open places that has been able to exploit coppicing and other woodland operations.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sweet violets

On the verge of the road called Gorselands in our village of Sedlescombe there is an astonishing colony of sweet violets (Viola odorata) with pale and dark colour forms. 

20090321 Viola odorata Sedlescombe 004

This is not a native of our area and I suspect the original plants were imported with turf, probably from the South Downs, used to make the verge.

We also get small colonies of V. odorata var. praecox which is I think always a garden escape here.  It flowers earlier than the nominate subspecies and has smaller, darker flowers.  Both types, of course, have that wonderful scent.

20080209 Viola odorata 001

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Breeding blackbirds (Turdus merula)

Our garden blackbirds are nesting now and I often see the female collecting bits of stick and grass for the nest.  The male tends to sit up in the bushes like this just keeping an eye on things.

20090317 Blackbird South View 011

There is nearly always a pair of blackbirds active around the house and it is easy to think they are the same ones every year but, in the 35 years we have been here, there must have been many generations - sic transit gloria mundi.

Blackbirds usually stay in or near the same place all the year round but some go on longer haul journeys.  One famous bird travelled regularly some 228 miles from Norfolk to South Devon for the winter.  See:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

From the cormorant's nest

I was recently presented with an old and large cormorant's nest from the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.

Consisting of a large bundle of sticks decorated with a few strands of flotsam and carrying a rich complement of fish waste, guano and dead chicks, it came in a dustbin but has now been transferred to an Owen emergence trap.

20090311 South View 002

So far two insect species have emerged, both in some numbers.  One is the common overwintering greenbottle, Eudasyphora cyanella, and the other Siphunculina aenea, a tiny, rarely recorded red data book gout fly (Chloropidae) - see below. 

20090302 Cormorant - Siphunculina aenea

This species has been bred from bear's dung in the Orient, so it sounds as though it is not too fussy, though there has to be some reason why it is rare.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Landscape with slime mould

The scene below is a close up taken yesterday showing the fruiting bodies of a myxomycete, or slime mould, growing on the bark of a dead spinning gum (Eucalyptus perriniana) in our garden here in Sedlescombe, East Sussex.

20090308 Metre & South View 017

It was originally a vertical picture (that is with the fruiting bodies sticking out sideways) which I have turned to horizontal.

I thought it looked remarkably like some African savanna dotted with bushy-topped trees.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Holly microfungus

Scrambling along the south eastern gill in Yellowcoat Wood, near Flimwell, East Sussex (grid ref TQ 713303) this afternoon, I found some small, rusty brown objects erupting the the bark on the trunk of an old holly (Ilex aquifolium).

20090307 Nectria punicea var ilicis Flimwell 09

They were easily identifiable as Nectria punicea var. ilicis, a species for which I can find no other East Sussex records, though I suspect it is not uncommon.

Yellowcoat wood is, by the way, the reputed site of a medieval massacre.  In 1264 King Henry III on his way to the Battle of Lewes is said to have had 300 local archers beheaded there (it was then a field) in response to one of his retinue having been killed.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The two moths mystery

A few days ago I found, in the morning, a twin-spotted quaker moth (Orthosia munda) at rest on the white enamel front round the top of our kitchen cooker.

20090227 South View & Metre 020

It had certainly not been there the previous evening and as no windows were open or lights on during the intervening period, I wondered how it had got in.

Orthosia species often play dead when disturbed and this makes them quite easy to photograph on any convenient bit of wood (as in the picture above).

This morning, to my surprise, I found a closely  related moth, the Hebrew character (Orthosia gothica) in almost exactly the 20090302 BHW & Metre 052same place: on the white enamel at the top of our kitchen cooker. 

Apart from the strangeness of their being there, I am surprised that they both decided to settle on a shiny white surface rather than on the numerous wooden surfaces about the house where they would be much better camouflaged.

Both moth species are common early flying creatures that come readily to light and to sallow blossom.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Snowdrop time

Every year I feel obliged to photograph snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis), I suppose because they are among the very first flowers of the new season and have a chilly, but cheerful, elegance.

20090228a Snowdrops 107

They are not thought to be a native species in the British Isles and they rarely seem to grow far away from houses, roadsides or streamsides here in East Sussex.  The first record in the wild was not until 1778, but they were known in cultivation well before that.

It has been suggested that snowdrops were the source of the magical herb called 'moly' used by Odysseus to protect him against Circe's spells and there is much of the usual folklore associated with well-known plants.

Once the flowers have faded they leaves follow quite quickly and I find it quite poignant that when spring is really getting going the snowdrop is retiring from the world for another season.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The magic pool

Yesterday we made a visit to nearby Bodiam Castle.  There has been much rain lately and a large pool of water remained in the field between the car park and the castle grounds.  This produces some interesting reflections.

I took this picture looking north with the pool in the foreground:

20090219 Bodiam 050

A few moment later, from the other side of the pool I took this picture looking south across the Rother valley:

20090219 Bodiam 056

Same stretch of water, but a different reflection.  It all depends, as they say, on your point of view.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Sun on snow

On an afternoon walk in a snowy landscape on a grey afternoon, the sun suddenly broke through the clouds and illuminated a distant field.

20090203 Sedlescombe snow field 008

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The frost is all over

In my ramblings about East Sussex after the recent hard frosts I have noticed that many larger ivy leaves have turned a buttery yellow as though the plant was variegated.

20090117 Stonelink frosted ivy

It reminded me of the well-known Irish jig The frost is all over and I found a splendid meditation on this in words and music here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hairstreaking in the Brede Valley

On Saturday, at the invitation of Butterfly Conservation's Rother Woods project, we went looking for brown hairstreak butterfly (Thecla betulae) eggs in the Lower Brede Valley, East Sussex.  The species has been occasionally recorded in this area in the past and it may simply have been overlooked as it is a difficult butterfly to find as an adult.

Neil Hulme from Butterfly Conservation (Sussex) joined the group and brought an egg on a blackthorn twig so that we all knew what to look for (see picture below).  The egg came from West Sussex and was scheduled to be returned, on its twig, after our field meeting.

20090117 Neal Hulme at Stonelink 010

20090117 Stonelink 004

The eggs are usually laid in the fork of a blackthorn twig as above and look like small, hemispherical pearls.  They remain in situ until the leaves come in spring and, once seen, are fairly easy to find if they are present at all.  There are one or two eggs of moths that can be laid in this position, but they are not of this shape.

We had a good walk round the hedges at Stonelink but did not find any eggs (early days yet) though we did see some impressive wild boar rootings and found a strong colony of the rather scarce hard shield-fern.

20090117 Stonelink 017

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Brimstone moth caterpillar

At the end of our garden I have an open-ended hanging sleeve trap over an artificial water-filled tree hole.  Today, after about a week of hard frosts, I was surprised to find a small brimstone moth caterpillar inside the trap.

20090113 Opisthograptis luteolata 030

The brimstone moth (Opisthograptis luteolata) is a common species with several generations a year and often there are overwintering larvae, though it is difficult to see what they eat if they are very active like this one.  Normally they feed on the leaves of deciduous shrubs like hawthorn and blackthorn.

Mine keeps casting round the box and the various leaves I have provided, but does not seem to be eating any of them.  Maybe I will just let it go again rather than breed it through.

The caterpillars do, of course, look very much like thorn twigs, though in some areas they are green rather than brown.  The explanation for this dimorphism does not seem to be known, but it is not uncommon in the caterpillar world.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Coppicing for butterflies

As part of the Rother Woods Project, sponsored by Butterfly Conservation and others, coppicing has started in Killingan Wood about 200 metres north of our house.

20090107 Killingan Wood coppicing 001a

Most of the wood is very shady since coppicing ceased many years ago and the trees, mostly hornbeam, are now what coppicers call "overstood", that is they have gone far beyond the ideal age for cutting.

The increase in sunlight reaching the ground will certainly have a beneficial effect on early-flowering woodland plants and there may also be an increase in woodland butterflies and some other invertebrates.  Most of the stools should, however, grow up again quite quickly (if the deer do not get at the new shoots) and shade will rapidly return to the woodland floor.  Hopefully there will be plenty more areas of new coppice to which the light demanding species can move.

20090107 Killingan Wood coppicing 009a

The notice above on a tree where the path starts into the wood says the timber will be used for firewood.  This is now getting to be quite a scarce resource in South East England but it was, of course, what many of the coppices were used for in the past.  In a more natural world than our own, unless there were forest fires, trunks and branches of trees would die and fall to be colonised by a myriad of fungi and invertebrates and these, of course, would provide important food resources for birds, bats and other wildlife.  But we can't have everything and, if gas fails to arrive from Russia, I am sure many will be grateful for the short period of respite British fuel wood might be able to provide.

Anyway, being so close at hand, I will have a splendid opportunity to observe exactly what happens after this coppice restoration.