15 Apr 2022

MINUTES OF THE 49TH AGM OF THE CROSS IN HAND AMENITIES SOCIETY

 MINUTES OF THE 49TH AGM OF

THE CROSS IN HAND AMENITIES SOCIETY

HELD ON 7TH APRIL 2022

AT THE LUCAS HALL, WALDRON

1.    Apologies for absence: Lynette Baker, Jenny Wakefield-Warren, Kevin Benton, Gillian Child, Ruth Gibson, Jean Grafham, Colin & Liz Guthrie, Amanda Hamblin, Simon & Jane Leney, Mark & Cam Nichols, Anne Oliver, Mike Pickard, Alan & Gwen Pugh, Howard & Toni Hills-Page.

2.    Appointment of Chairman: Steve Thompsett was nominated by Lin Plant and seconded by Janet Reader and accepted by all present.

3.    Nomination and Appointment of Committee: There being no new nominations, the present committee of Lin Plant (Vice Chairman), Janet Reader (Treasurer),  Mike Baker (Membership Secretary), – all Trustees – Jenny Wakefield-Warren (in her absence and with her agreement), Jo Eaton-Brown, Philippa Pigache and Nicky Thompsett were accepted.

4.    Approval of the Minutes of the Last AGM: Held in September 2021 (delayed due to Covid)  These were accepted by all present.

5.    Matters arising: No actions were outstanding.

6.    Chairman’s Report: ST reported on all activities that have taken place in the last six months. 

The work in conjunction with the Parish Council has all been completed and the Contractor, Chris Davis of Agrifactors, continues to support us. Dangerous trees have been removed, steps rebuilt at the lower end of the wood and much needed drainage work has been carried out, as well as the spraying regrowth of rhododendron that will start shortly.
 
We have new green signs at all entrances, reminding visitors that the Wood is owned by the community and managed by a Charity committee. 

ST thanked Mike Baker and volunteers, who have done a sterling job of working parties clearing rhododendron and laurel. 

Jo Eaton-Brown continues to provide seasonal posters showing what to look for in the Wood.  

We have planted another 200 saplings, donated via the Countryside Volunteers, along with a further 100, all planted by MB, J & J Eaton-Brown.

ST & LP met with representatives of the High Weald AONB, who wanted to see the work carried out under grants given by Sussex Lund, which were secured by our late Chairman, John Plant.  They were very impressed with the work completed, and took lots of photos to include in future information.

Following the donation of over £10,000 from the Co-Op. along with smaller amounts from members, work on replacing the boardwalk should start in the near future.  Our contractor has the sleepers in preparation and should begin when the weather is suitable.

The Woodland Plan was discussed later in the meeting.
 
7.    Treasurer’s Report: The Treasurer gave her report, which was accepted by the members.

8.    Membership Status: MB reported that we currently have 144 members, some of whom are still due to renew their subscription.

9.    Darch’s Wood update: ST showed some slides of the work done in the Wood, including some maps.  There are links on the Website to the 1947 map from the air. 

10. Forestry Commission Woodland Plan:  ST gave details of the application for funding for the total removal of rhododendron and laurel in the Wood.  This is considered necessary, as the Wood would be overwhelmed if we do nothing.  There are two parts to the grant: the first is to do various things yearly, such as widen the rides (paths), squirrel catching and deer management. The largest part of the grant, £40,000, is for the eradication of the non-native species (rhododendron and laurel). Josh Diplock, from the team who will help manage the works, answered various questions from members and a vote was taken, and it was agreed to go ahead with the grant.

11. Jubilee Picnic:  LP said that it had been suggested to hold a low-key picnic in the Wood for the Platinum Jubilee on Sunday 5th June, as there were many other events taking place.  People should bring their own picnics, no disposable BBQs allowed, any time from 12pm to 5pm.  LP will arrange bunting and perhaps a few simple games for children – helpers welcome.  It was agreed to go ahead with this picnic. 

12. AOB: Two metal detectorists came along and brought a box frame containing some of their finds in the Wood.  They were unable to detect anything under the paths, due to metal in the planings. They also found some badly damaged George III coins. 

LP mentioned that a glade of Rowan trees had been purchased, using the last monies from the memorial collection for John Plant.  These were due to be planted any time now.  N.B. – The trees were actually planted the day before the AGM by the Pond.

13. Members questions: A member suggested that we could have a stall at the French Market and/or the Heathfield Show.  We would need volunteers to man such stalls. 

A question was raised about what happens to trees chopped down.  These generally should be left in situ to help diversification in the Wood. Josh Diplock said that the contractors would mulch any leftovers when removing the rhododendrons, etc. It was also asked if the 'Spiney Forest' could be kept. JD said that the Forestry Commission were highly unlikely to agree to this, as they could cross pollinate and cause more regrowth of the unwanted rhododendron.  Another question was raised about solitary bees losing habitat.  ST said that a bee expert, Martin Jenner, had given a talk at the previous AGM, and he said that clearing the wood in non-native species and opening the rides would be highly beneficial to bees. Therefore the longer term benefit would outweigh any initial impacts. 

However, we would make every effort to ensure contractors removing the non-native species do so in a manner that minimises impacts as far as possible. 

The meting closed at 8.45 and guests had the opportunity to have refreshments, look at information displayed at the back of the hall and talk to the committee, Josh Diplock and the detectorists.

23 Mar 2022

Bringing Winter 2021/22 to a Close

As spring approaches, we have one last Saturday session before the bird nesting season brings a
halt to our clearance operations. The weather is set to be glorious, so, if you can spare an hour or two to help us clear Cherry laurel and Rhododendron, we’d be super-glad to see you this coming

SATURDAY 26TH MARCH 2022
 
As usual, we’ll be working in teams of no more than six - bring your own tools (gloves essential), although we have loppers, rakes, and saws to loan out if required.
 
See you there - meet at the pond around 10:30 - follow the smoke.

10 Mar 2022

We're Nearly Finished! (Nearly...)

First of all, a big thank you to all who turned out last Saturday – we've got our compartment finished and it's looking good! This large area, from the pond up to Back Lane, has been cleared of Rhododendron ponticum and Cherry Laurel as per the photograph below taken by our chairman Steve Thompsett. The regrowth will soon be sprayed by Agrifactors and we can then continue with the replanting of native species later in the year; bluebells are already starting to push through and should be a sight to see in a few weeks time.
 
Although we’ve completed this section, it’s no time to sit on our 'cherry laurels' (sorry) and, with a few Saturdays in hand before we need to stop in time for the start of the bird nesting season, we propose moving our focus slightly south across the path and again working uphill from the pond.
 
If you can spare an hour or two, come and help us out  this coming Saturday 12th March 2022.
 
We will be working in teams of no more than six - bring your own tools (gloves essential), although we have loppers, rakes, and saws to loan out if required.
 
See you there - meet at the pond around 10:30 - follow the smoke!



1 Feb 2022

Upcoming Work Party

We’re back in the wood again this Saturday (05/02/2022), clearing the area between the pond and Back Lane. The forecast is dry with a bit of a chill in the air, so ideal for a workout. If you can spare an hour or two, we’d love to see you!

We will be working in teams of no more than six - bring your own tools (gloves essential), although we have loppers, rakes, and saws to loan out if required.

See you there - meet at around 10:30 - follow the smoke.

 

24 Jan 2022

Grass Snake!!

At the recent work party (22/01/2022) we were working on removing rhododendron, cherry laurel and sycamore on the far western border of the woods. All-of-a-sudden a cry of 'snake!' went up, and lo! there was a sizeable, angry grass snake doing its very best in pretending to be an adder! Needless to say, we vacated that area and left it to its own devices, hoping that it would slither back into the hole from whence it sprang. We never cease to be surprised by what we find in Darch's Wood.

As ever, thanks to all who attended the work party: we achieved an enormous amount between us! Furthermore, the parcel of land we have been working on for at least four years is now almost restored to its former condition, with only a bit more clearance and some control of regrowth remaining before we move on elsewhere in the wood.

17 Dec 2021

Tree Planting II!

A fair few tree guards and stakes have appeared along the borders of the wood in areas which the society, with the very generous help of volunteers, have been clearing of non-native invasive species such as Cherry Laurel and Rhododendron. Some may ask what is going on here, and why are we planting trees in a wood?! Both are good questions. 

Whilst Rhododendron and Cherry Laurel may look nice in a garden, if permitted to escape into an ecosystem (such as Wealden ghyll woodland, in our case) nature cannot compete against these human-introduced plants which then quickly overwhelm native species, causing great harm to (and eventually destroying!) woodland if left unchecked.

On these borders we wish to replace the 'lost' foliage as quickly as possible, only with a far more appropriate choice of species. Having cleared these areas of non-native invasives, we must continue to consider our neighbours' privacy and limit how much their properties are 'over-looked' from the wood. And because a good screen of woodland-edge species not only allows privacy to be retained, but also eventually becomes stock (and dog) proof, shields the wood from the worst excesses of wind, and keeps the humid air within the wood, it is important that we re-populate the borders as quickly as possible.


To that end, the society is in the middle of planting 200 new saplings (60 are already in the ground at the time of writing!) and this is where the tree guards and stakes come in. In a wonderful display of generosity, The Conservation Volunteers donated two hundred bare-root seedlings, with canes and guards, to the Cross-in-Hand Amenities Society. Within the mix were species such as:

  • Field maple

  • Hazel

  • Hawthorn

  • Dogwood

  • Dog rose

  • Downy birch

  • Goat willow

  • Bird cherry


A private donor has also helped to return the wood back to a more natural state by offering us ten small-leaved Lime trees (Tillia cordata) which would have been widespread and extremely common in the south-east of England after the last ice-age, but more recently in history have been cleared to make way for sweet chestnut coppice and standard oaks.

The hawthorn, dog rose and dogwood are ‘woodland-edge’ species, and are perfect for screening along the borders. The remaining species will be planted randomly throughout the recently cleared areas. Thus, the future of Darch's Wood's biodiversity (and therefore resilience in the face of climate change) has therefore taken another very positive step forward.

One last valid question is 'why must we use plastic tree guards when plastic pollution is such a huge environmental issue?'. The brief answer is that we have, at least with current technology, no real choice. Darch’s Wood, and the countryside in general, is suffering from both an overabundance of deer and the effect of non-native grey squirrels, both of which decimate saplings via browsing and bark stripping. If left unchecked almost all of the saplings would be predated to the point where they never reach maturity, and so tree guards must be used and gathered in for re-use or disposal once the saplings mature.


 

14 Dec 2021

The Next Work Party

We’re back in the wood this weekend to finish the clearance of rhododendron and cherry laurel of the section from the pond up towards Back Lane. This will be our last session of the year (we’re back again in January 2022) and should see the final push to clear what has been a challenging and somewhat dense area of non-native species. 

The difference we have all made to the wood is absolutely amazing so, if you haven’t been down for while, I urge you to come and take a look. 

The weather is set to be fair and, if you can spare an hour or two, we’d love to see you this coming Saturday 18th December. 

 With social distancing in mind we will be working in teams of no more than six, so bring your own tools (gloves/appropriate footwear essential), although we can always loan out loppers, rakes, saws etc. if you don't have any of your own. 

Hope to see you there; meet near the pond at around 10:30 and follow the smoke!

29 Nov 2021

Upcoming Work Parties

First of all, we'd like to reiterate a huge “THANK YOU!” to all the folks that helped out at our last session; there was a fantastic turnout and we cleared the largest area in one day that we’ve ever managed. Absolutely brilliant!

We’re back in the wood this weekend, continuing our clearance work from the pond up towards Back Lane. Our next batch of 200 native saplings should have arrived by then and, if we get enough folks, we’ll start planting them out on cleared ground.
 
The forecast is less cold than at the time of writing so, if you can spare an hour or two, we’d love to see you this coming Saturday 4th December.

We will be working in teams of no more than six, so bring your own tools (gloves essential), although we can always loan out loppers, rakes, saws, etc. if needed.

Hope to see you there! We meet at the pond at around 10:30, just follow the smoke.

21 Nov 2021

Co-Op Local Community Fund: A Thousand Thank You's!

We are incredibly pleased to announce that on Saturday 20th November 2021 our Treasurer, Janet and Lin (Vice Chair) collected from the Heathfield Co-Op this incredible cheque for £10,095.97! Enormous thanks are due to the Heathfield and Horam branches of the Co-Op for our inclusion in their fund, and to all those people who nominated us as their charity of the year. We could not be more grateful.

The donated money will be used to make the now-urgent repairs to the boardwalk on the western side of the circuitous path, just down from the church.

7 Nov 2021

Ride Widening and Border Regeneration

The Conservation Volunteers currently have an initiative to plant millions of native trees across the UK. As part of their drive, they have very kindly donated 200 young saplings of various species to The Cross-In-Hand Amenities Society. 

Although Darch's Wood will never be short of the various species of birch and willow found within (!), within TCV's delivery there will be a number of shade-intolerant species such as hawthorn, dogwood, blackthorn and so on which are more suited to woodland-edge habitats, as well as the more usual broad-leaf species such as lime, oak, beech, hornbeam etc. which one finds creating the closed-canopy at the woodland heart.

Before......and After!

At present, the ride running the length of the east side of Darch's Wood is far too dark and narrow for its intended purpose, completely over-run as it is with the cherry laurel and rhododendron doing its level best to invade every corner of the wood. In order to make room for TCV's donation, we have therefore been clearing a long stretch of these invasive species, to be replaced by the species which one would expect to find there.

This work provides innumerable benefits. Not only would this hugely increase the health and resilience of the woodland itself, but will also provide a vital nectar source for insects (not to mention a source of berries for autumn foraging!), will let more light into the wood for the understory to flourish, and will continue to shield the woodland from the worst of the easterly winds, helping to maintain the ideal temperature and humidity within the woodland. AND it will look lovely to the human observer when fully grown! Except for the shielding of the woods from wind, none of this currently occurs with the cherry laurel and rhododendron in place.

We were all gladdened to see that the workparty we held on 6th November 2021 was again very well attended, and managed to rejuvenate a considerable length of the eastern border after years of neglect. Heartfelt thanks to all who attended; your time and efforts are fully appreciated. As ever, if you feel you would like to donate an hour or two of your time to our 'Green Gym' workparties and help to make a real difference to Darch's Wood, you are only too welcome.

All we need to do now is plant the saplings once they arrive!

3 Nov 2021

Working Parties

Time for a brew and bacon sarnie!

Volunteering in Darch's Wood is going from strength to strength. In fact, last week (23rd October 2021) we set a for record attendance! It may have had something to do with the gourmet bacon rolls and tea that were on offer, but either way we're excited! We managed to clear, process and burn an enormous amount of the remaining invasive rhododendron and cherry laurel to the west of the pond and had fun and kept fit whilst at it.

But, fundamentally, we at the Cross-In-Hand Amenities Society would all like to record our profound thanks to all who attend the working parties, whether you're a regular, an 'occasional' or if it was your first time. As you can see, it makes an enormous difference to the wood. So please do feel free to come down and give us an hour or two of your time; you will, as ever, be made most welcome!

As ever, we continue to learn about the woods as we work. A new species (for us!) is the 'beef stake' bracket fungus (
Fistulina hepatica) found on a long-fallen but recently uncovered oak trunk This is a remarkable species of fungus (aren't they all?!) which apparently, if cooked, actually resembles the taste of beef but, somewhat more grotesquely, drips 'blood' if damaged. As with all fungi, if one is not 100% certain of what species you are dealing, it's best to leave be and not attempt to eat it.

The next working party is on Saturday 6th November: meet at the pond at around 10:30, and if still you can't find us, just follow the smoke. We will be working in teams of no more than six, so bring your own tools (gloves & boots essential), although we can always loan out loppers, rakes, saws etc. if needed.

This time, there will be a slight change in location. Two-hundred new trees have been donated to us for impending delivery, and these are scheduled for planting out in December. These will be a mix of native species, some of which are best suited to woodland-edge or hedgerow environments, and to accommodate these particular species we’ll be clearing rhododendron from some of the areas on the edge of the woods adjacent to the main drive. It should also subtly open up views to the east from the wood, and make the woodland edge look more natural whilst continuing to shield from wind blast and associated loss of humidity within the wood itself.

26 Aug 2021

48th ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

- NOTICE -
 
48th ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 

TO BE HELD AT THE LUCAS MEMORIAL HALL, WALDRON 
ON 8th SEPTEMBER 2021 AT 19:30
 
We are pleased to invite you to join us at the forty ninth Annual General Meeting of the Cross-in-Hand Amenities Society. 

You are reminded that only fully paid up members will be permitted to vote at the meeting, so if you have not already renewed your membership please do so (by clicking here!) with the utmost priority.

 All members are at liberty to nominate themselves or others for any of the positions on the Committee. We would ask anyone wishing to stand to contact our Membership Secretary, Mike Baker in advance of the meeting. 

Following the meeting, members are invited to socialise with a glass of wine or a soft drink, which will be provided free of charge. 

If you wish to confirm your attendance or to offer your apologies, please send an e-mail to mikefbaker@hotmail.com, or telephone 01435 866253. 

Steve Thompsett, Chair.

18 Jul 2021

Tree Planting

Those users of our woods who are particularly observant may have noticed that a fair few tree guards and stakes have appeared in areas which the society, with the very generous help of volunteers, have been clearing of non-native invasive species such as Cherry Laurel and Rhododendron. Some may ask what is going on here, and why are we planting trees in a wood?! Both are good questions.

Whilst Rhododendron and Cherry Laurel may look nice in a garden, if permitted to escape into an ecosystem (such as Wealden ghyll woodland, in our case) nature cannot compete against these human-introduced plants which then quickly overwhelm native species, causing great harm to (and eventually destroying!) woodland if left unchecked.


Having cleared these areas of non-native invasives, nature can sometimes do with a helping hand. The act of tree planting isn’t always helpful, affordable or even necessary in many contexts as the process of natural regeneration does a far better job, with better results, and is often more appropriate; i.e. native species are simply allowed to seed and repopulate cleared areas in their own time (as can be seen occuring around our stand of aspen west of the pond). However, in order for this process to be fully effective, the regeneration needs to come from a diverse, healthy ecosystem which is already in tip-top condition, and unfortunately Darch’s Wood is not there yet.


If we were to utilise only the process of natural regeneration, the wood would unfortunately repopulate itself with non-native, species-poor 'Secondary' woodland, with trees such as sycamore, horse chestnut, larch and sweet chestnut predominant. Whilst beautiful, popular and in some cases historically important trees, they also prevent the wood from regenerating to its apex ‘Tertiary’ state, i.e. once again reaching the natural composition of species as should be found in a Wealden ghyll.


This is where the tree guards and stakes come in. In a wonderful display of generosity, The Conservation Volunteers donated one hundred bare-root seedlings to the Cross-in-Hand Amenities Society to help with restoring Darch’s Wood. Within the mix were species such as:

  • Field maple

  • Hazel

  • Aspen

  • Hawthorn

  • Dogwood

  • Downy birch

  • Goat willow

  • Aspen

  • Bird cherry


The hawthorn and dogwood are ‘woodland-edge’ species. These were planted on to replace screening on the woodland edge where some invasives had been removed. We are already most fortunate in having a large stand of aspen within the wood, so the donated aspen was used to spread this species to new areas. The remaining species were planted randomly throughout the cleared areas. Despite the dry spring experienced in 2021, the saplings seem to have done incredibly well, with a survival rate thus far of approximately 95%. The future of Darch's Wood's biodiversity (and therefore resilience in the face of climate change) has therefore taken a very positive step forward.


One last valid question is 'why must we use plastic tree guards when plastic pollution is such a huge environmental issue?'. The brief answer is that we have, at least with current technology, no real choice. Darch’s Wood, and the countryside in general, is suffering from both an overabundance of deer and the effect of non-native grey squirrels, both of which decimate saplings via browsing and bark stripping. If left unchecked almost all of the saplings would be predated to the point where they never reach maturity, and so tree guards must be used and gathered in for re-use or disposal once the saplings mature. 

20 Apr 2021

Aquatic Habitat Survey Results

Andrew Farr very kindly volunteered his time recently to visit Darch's Wood in order to conduct an aquatic biodiversity survey.

He sampled the stream working from the top of the wood at TQ567214 down southwards to the pond, which he then also surveyed. His survey uncovered three mayfly species and one stonefly species, which are listed below. He also collected a dragonfly larva which was identified as being of the large and beautiful Golden-ringed Dragonfly.

  • Mayfly
    • Large Dark Olive Baetis rhodani  
    • Ditch Dun Habrophlebia fusca
    • Pond Olive Cloeon dipterum  (only present in the pond)
  • Stonefly
    • Leuctra nigra (only present at the top of the site)
  • Dragonfly
    • Golden-ringed Dragonfly  Cordulegaster boltonii 
A female Golden-ringed dragonfly
  • Other Orders (not Mayfly, Stonefly or Dragonfly):
    • Freshwater Shrimp: Gammarus, by far the most common freshwater invertebrate at Darch's Wood; present at all sites sampled.
    • Sedge:  Very few in the main stream but a tributary sampled held numerous cased caddis larva. Unsurprisingly given all the leaf mould in the stream they were encased in tiny bits leaf not small stone gravel! He also collected one uncased caddis larva.
    • Midge larvae: a few here and there, of the non-biting variety!
A freshwater shrimp! Hurrah!

Although no show-stealing rare species were found during the survey, the results do show that the aquatic environment in Darch's wood is in reasonable order, clean and relatively unpolluted. Although greatly encouraging, the amount of life Mr. Farr discovered is perhaps also a little surprising given that the pond is crammed full of enormous, non-native carp who eat almost everything that moves and most things that don't!

Many thanks to Mr. Farr in his effort to sample the site and present the committee with his results.

18 Dec 2020

Working Parties during Tier 2

Sorry for the late notification but we were waiting for the Tier announcement from the government before making a decision. 

We in Wealden have dodged a bullet and remain in Tier 2; a great relief to us all and, as a result, we’re going to squeeze in one last session in Darch’s before year end. 

We’ve got some new native bare-root trees to plant, kindly donated to us by The Conservation Volunteers, there’s plenty of rhododendron and laurel to clear, and brash to burn, so if you can spare an hour or two our next adventure is scheduled for this Saturday 19th December. 

We will be socially distancing in groups of no more than six, so if you can bring your own tools (your own gloves are essential) it would be preferable; if not, we can loan loppers, rakes, saws etc. 

Meet at the pond at around 11:00; just follow the smoke and noise!



11 Dec 2020

Working Party 12/12/2020

We have made huge progress with the section of wood that we’ve been working this year and, taking into account the disruption caused by Covid, the improvement that has been made has to be seen to be believed. 

Despite the two huge bonfires last week, there’s still plenty of brash to drag and burn and, with 100 new trees soon to arrive as a starter for our woodland regeneration effort, we’ve an extensive opportunity for exercise and fresh air. Christmas approaches at a frightening lick, and it would be great if we could fit in a couple of sessions before the new year.

 

To this end, if you can spare an hour or two; the next jolly is scheduled for this Saturday 12th December. Again, social distancing will be the norm, so if you can bring your own tools (gloves essential) it would be preferable - if not, we can loan loppers, rakes, saws etc.

 

Meet at the pond at around 11:00 - follow the smoke.

1 Dec 2020

Post-Lockdown 2 Working Sessions!

As we stagger from the gloom of Lockdown 2 and stride purposefully into the sunlit uplands of a Tier 2 recovery where-in the unicorns dwell, I’m pleased to announce that the Society can resume its Saturday work sessions in the wood, albeit socially distanced. 

At the moment, we have successfully cleared a vast amount of the invasive Cherry laurel, and the daylight streaming into that section of wood is amazing; the significant regrowth of clonal young Aspen that we’ve already seen making the most of that 'new' light is going to look an absolute treat in the Spring.


However, we are left with a huge amount of brash that needs clearing and burning before we see the real benefits of those clearance efforts - we need YOU!

 

We’ll split the current section into areas and, in order to comply with Tier 2 regulations, the plan is to have no more than 6 individuals working an area with a competent adult responsible for each.

 

The forecast is changeable but, if you can spare an hour or two, the next session is this Saturday 5th December.

 

Social distancing will be the norm, so if you can bring your own tools (gloves essential) it would be preferable; if not, we have a stash of loppers, rakes, saws &c. to loan .

 

Meet at the pond at around 11:00: just follow the smoke!




2 Nov 2020

Saturday Work Parties CANCELLED for November

With the November lockdown upon us I’m afraid that, in line with Government guidance, we will have to cancel our scheduled Saturday work sessions for the whole of November 

It’s a great shame, especially when we consider the progress made on our last two outings, but the safety of our membership remains paramount.

 

The wood remains open for those who wish to exercise. All we ask is that folks continue to respect social distancing criteria and adhere to the clockwise walking directions.

 

With the high winds experienced recently there have been a number of trees blown down; the majority of these have been noted and we’ll do our best to get them cleared as soon as possible.

 

If anybody spots a fallen tree or one that looks to be a danger to the public, give Mike a call on 01435 866253 and we’ll add them to the list to be cleared.

 

Stay safe and stay well.

22 Oct 2020

Working Party 24/10/2020

We'll be heading out into the wood for some socially-distanced conservation work again this Saturday 24th October. The forecast is changeable but, if you can spare an hour or two, whether you're a regular or a 'first-timer', it will be a pleasure to see you.

Social distancing will obviously be the norm (we certainly have the space!), so if you own tools, please bring them (your own pair of gloves and decent, sturdy footwear are essential) it would be preferable; if you don't have your own tools we can loan loppers, rakes, saws etc.

The plan, as usual, is to meet at the pond at around 11:00 - look out for the smoke.

See you there!

7 Oct 2020

Winter 20/21 Work Parties


October approaches and the cherry laurel and rhododendron ponticum are (rightly) quaking in their roots!

We’ll be ringing the changes with our work sessions this season with a move to fortnightly Saturday fixtures – this to give those otherwise occupied on Sundays the chance to participate in the clearance work.

If you can spare an hour or two, our first session will be on Saturday 10th October and we’d be as delighted as we always are to see you.

Covid-19 is obviously an issue, but one that we should be able to work with if we maintain social distancing (and avoid any undue kissing and cuddling). If you can bring your own tools (gloves and decent boots essential) it would be preferable; if you've none we can loan loppers, rakes, saws etc.

The plan, as usual, is to meet at the pond at around 11:00 - look out for the smoke.

Post Script: We had a successful trial earlier in the year making our own Darch’s Charcoal (see below). We have a stack of dried timber from previous sessions and will be firing up the retort (cooker) early on to make another batch while we get on with the general clearance work.



25 Apr 2020

Spring Flowers

It's Spring! After hibernating through a very long, and unbelievably wet and windy winter (looking at you, climate change...) life has burst back into Darch's Wood.

Birds are singing vigorously to demarcate their breeding territories, insects are emerging and mating, and the woodland flowers are daily becoming an ever greater sight to behold. Beginning with violets and wood anemones, the forest floor is soon awash with lesser celandine, glorious bluebells, the unusual lords-and-ladies (or cuckoo pint!) and greater stitchwort, to name but a few. All are timed to bloom before the canopy closes, which then prevents as much light from reaching the woodland floor.

Our eyes are currently trained on the areas cleared of the ever present (and infernal!) invasive, non-native cherry laurel and rhododendron this winter to see if the restored penetration of light to the forest floor in these areas causes any dormant seeds to germinate. On your walks through the woods, have a look out to see what you can find, and please comment below to let us know your sightings!

Please remember to continue to employ social distancing in the woods, and to walk round in a clockwise direction.

27 Mar 2020

What To Look For In Spring

Please remain greater than 2 metres away from everyone else whilst revelling!

24 Feb 2020

Working Party Report: Saturday 22nd February 2020

By Committee Member Josephine Eaton-Brown


The bivouac and firepit. No idea where it came from; any takers?
Highlights from this working party session included finding a secret camp beneath the invasive laurel jungle, seeing a sparrowhawk and a goldcrest as we went about our work and enjoying a rare dry day outdoors in February, with some even rarer sunny spells!!

On arriving, committee member Mike had already got a good bonfire going despite the wet ground and was making good progress against the matted twists and tangles of the invasive Rhododendron ponticum and Cherry laurel. Myself and my husband James joined the group to make five, including fellow committee member Jenny and her dog Poppy, who was busy collecting sticks and wondering what on earth we were all up to!

We were joined later in the day by another local resident, Lucy, and between us we cleared another good section of laurel and rhododendron that has completely taken over parts of the woodland. By clearing it, we will increase the space and light for native woodland species to thrive once more and regenerate naturally which in turn will increase biodiversity, not only in the wood but in the surrounding countryside too!
We were treated to a close view of a sparrowhawk that flew out right in front of Mike and James. We also encountered a beautiful little goldrest, heard first by James and spotted shortly after hopping about in the branches above our heads as if to inspect our work.

Signs of spring; the bluebells are on their way!
Between us we felled, lopped, sawed and burned, not only a great deal of rhody but a lot of calories too! It's a good workout, and a hugely rewarding experience. Personally, I find it's a great way to switch off from the worries of the week and simply focus on the here and now task in hand. There's time to chat and catch up with neighbours or plod away with your tasks, quietly daydreaming about how the wood will look when all the hard work is complete. It's satisfying to know that the work we do now will help protect and preserve this woodland for the community long into the future.

There's not much better than the unique afterglow of a day spent working in the outdoors and giving back to nature and the community. We have just a few more sessions left before we have to stop as we come into bird nesting season and it would be great to see some good volunteer turnout. We welcome newcomers whether you have half an hour or a whole day to give. We usually have some spare tools, or you can bring your own loppers, and there's always a job for everyone, no matter age or ability.

The next working parties are on 01/03/2020 and 15/03/2020. We meet by the pond from 11am. If you have any questions about the working parties please do get in touch.

3 Nov 2019

Dedication: John Plant, Chairman 2013-2019

A small group, hooded and hatted, stood in the rain by the lake in Darch’s Wood early this November. It had gathered to plant a tree in commemoration of John Plant, former chair of the Cross-in-Hand Amenities Society, guardians of the wood, who died in April this year. Darch’s Wood had been central to John’s life for six years, and the transformation of this 40 acre ancient woodland, its paths, trees and waterways, took place under his guidance. 

The group were the committee of the society who had worked with John, and included his wife Lin. Together they had selected the tall West Himalayan Birch (Betula utilis var. jacquemontii) with its distinctive, striking white bark, that now stands on the west bank of the lake, next to the table and benches made of Darch’s Wood's own oak, and at the very heart of the wood. The planting was executed with professional thoroughness by Bruno and John from Agrifactors of Punnetts Town.

An oak post with a brass plaque was also mounted next to the tree baring the following inscription:

John Plant,
Chair of Cross in Hand Amenities Society 2013-2019

Look around you.
John loved and cared for this ancient woodland.
It is his memorial.