Summer, I think…

Hello all. Not really sure what season we’re in right now, but I thought I’d start with something that is becoming more and more of a problem on the Forest.

Pic 1 Sheep

This is one of the sheep from the large grazing enclosure on the Forest and it has been attacked by a dog. This came limping up to us one day and obviously has many injuries, particularly to her front right leg, the back of her head and throat.

This is why we ask dogs to be kept under close control or on a lead while on Ashdown Forest. Dogs found bothering livestock or attacking sheep can be shot. For people who are worried about their dog being around livestock, there are ‘Sheep Proof Your Dog’ courses available through us.

If it wasn’t for the sheep and cattle grazing the Forest, we wouldn’t be able to carry out anywhere near as much habitat management as we do and they create a fantastically diverse habitat for the rare and endangered wildlife that relies on Ashdown Forest.

So, let’s focus on some of the wildlife that the grazing sheep help to create a home for. Here’s one and they have kind of disappeared from their acidic bogs now but in the spring wherever we looked there was Bog Beacon fungi. There isn’t really a way around saying this – it’s a cute, bright orange, adorable little thing and I love it!

Pic 2 Bog Beacon

This year especially seems to have been a real bumper year for these things and we’re not too sure why, perhaps a higher water table than normal? Whatever the reason, it’s a real sweety!

While we’re on the subject of small, cute things – here’s a possible Speckled Bush Cricket nymph on a buttercup. This was while I was repairing one of the benches outside Fairwarp Village Hall.

Pic 3 SBCN

On the subject of spotting things while we work, we are currently working around all the car park entrances mowing the ‘sight lines’. While I was strimming at Kings Standing, I then noticed something deep pink in a cone on a long stalk which was something kind of out the ordinary.

Pic 4 Pyramidal Orchid

This is a Pyramidal Orchid which for those who don’t know is found on the chalk grassland of the South and North Downs. Ashdown Forest, being the core of the large dome of rock that once covered what we now know as the Weald, is sandstone and on the opposite end of the pH scale, acidic, to the alkaline soils of the chalk grassland where these things normally occur. So, what’s going on? Well somehow the conditions have become ideal for the orchids to grow; either the soil is well draining there or the pH has risen due to alkaline soils accidentally ending up there and cars have transported the orchids there and you get this. It’s a bit of freak occurrence and in the grand scheme of things they’re not really supposed to be there, but we’re not worried about them spreading out of control in any way.

One orchid that we’re not so surprised to see here, apart from the Heath Spotted and Heath Fragrant Orchids not far from the Visitor Centre, is the Common Spotted Orchid which is popping up on almost every verge and in other patches all over the Forest.

They are common, but I really do like the pattern on their petals if you get in close.

Pic 5 Common Spotted OrchidPic 6 Common Spotted Orchid 2

The main bird breeding season is well under way and it wasn’t that long ago we were driving around and three Woodlark, a parent and two young I think, were on the track in front of us. At the Forest Centre, we have a few bird boxes up and at least one of them has been used by a Blue Tit and there have been rumours of a Wren nesting in the Stone Age hut. In one of the boxes though, there was a Nuthatch nesting. Nuthatches generally use old holes, including old woodpecker nests, to nest in but they will use mud to make the hole smaller as added security. The Nuthatches using this box seem not to have used mud to make the hole smaller, but instead there must have been a gap between the roof and the box so they’ve plugged that up with mud instead!

Pic 7 Nuthatch nest box

I think it’s pretty ingenious.

So, I’m going to end with a goodbye to possibly the longest serving member of our team called Victor, and here he is!

Pic 8 Victor

Victor was the vacuum cleaner we used to clean the truck every Friday and at best guess was at least 35 years old. It’s hard to say whether Victor had a heart of gold or not, but whatever it was made of it all melted together which brought about the end.

So that’s what we’ve been up to recently, in a nutshell.