The 4.5 acre slope we were going to flatten to the ground and plant with trees is now an area of natural regeneration. With some compartments being managed as heathland/scrub. This was a HUGE decision for us to make. I LOVE planting trees and always thought it was better to plant trees, than not. However, I have learned a thing... sometimes it's better not to plant trees. It's true, honest! I won't be able to explain our thinking fully in this post but hopefully I can give you a wee insight...
I'm in my 4th year of observing this area and it has taught me just how much LIFE there is in scrub. Adders, newts, slow worms, badgers, foxes, red deer, roe deer, bugs, beetles, loads of butterflies, moths and fabulous looking flies, goodness knows how many wild flowers & approximately a million nesting birds (including Woodcock, Grasshopper warbler, Dartford Warbler, Stonechat, Whinchat.. etc...).
Talking about birds... it's the tiny little Grasshopper Warbler we have to thank for stopping us clearing this area. It chose to nest here, the RSPB have given it Red Status, so we chose not to destroy it's habitat. It does mean however that we will have to freeze regeneration in time and manage a reasonably sized area for them to breed in. I'm happy with that.
There are now areas towards the bottom of the regeneration slope full of young trees, birch, hazel, hawthorn, oak, rowan. As you head up it has more of a heathland feel, with heather hiding amongst the bracken and gorse. Towards the top it's mainly the odd tree, scrub and wildflowers all spilling out of the ancient stone bank with a mixed hedge on top. An incredible mosaic of habitat!
This year I am picking my way through the undergrowth like Mayweed out of Duncton Wood, snouting out the best pathways and finding so many treasures it's hard to contain myself. Here are some I have found today. It was late and the light low but the adventure was great!