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

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



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.

3 Oct 2019

Winter 2019/20 Volunteer Working Groups

Now we are officially outside of the bird nesting season, we are recommencing our weekend volunteer days on the First and Third Sundays of every month throughout the Autumn and Winter. 

Tasks include helping out with rhododendron and cherry laurel clearance, fixing/building leaky dams, helping to tend the bonfire and even just catching up with other members! It's a very rewarding and enjoyable way to spend an hour or two on a Sunday afternoon and we always go home satisfied that we have both made a real difference, and burnt a few calories in the process! You don't have to work any harder than you wish, and you came come and go as you please, but any time you are able offer us in carrying out this vital work can only be completed with the help of our willing volunteers. We are grateful even for an hour of your time!

We meet near the pond around 11am and usually go on until dusk, or until we run out of steam. Do bring your own tools if you have them, we usually have a few spares but the more the merrier!

So sharpen up those loppers and tree saws, dust off your rake and polish your wellies and come and help restore our woodland to its natural beauty. We look forward to seeing you in the woods!

Next meet: Sunday 2nd February 2020

Why do we clear rhododendron and cherry laurel?
These are non-native species that don't belong in a healthy woodland. Often, these are garden escapees that have been left to run wild for many years. They quickly block out light to the woodland floor and outcompete all other plant species, and if left alone Darch's Wood would eventually become a monoculture of rhododendron with dead and dying trees poking out the top! Clearing these non-native invasive species safeguards the biodiversity and health of the woodland for decades to come and, once cleared, the next generation of new native trees will take root and the bluebells, lesser celandines and wood anemones will once again put on their show in the spring. 

27 Sept 2019

Darch's Wood Archaeological Survey

Back in January 2019, your Cross-in-Hand Amenities Society teamed up with Dr Vivienne Blandford to conduct an archaeological survey of the woods. Quite aside from the report itself (which we present to you below), such an undertaking helps us in planning how to manage the woods, including the creation of a formal management plan, which can then use to apply for longer-term funding for woodland support from various organisations.

Prior to this survey, only one archaeological site had been identified in the woodlands; the Roman (?) iron bloomery. This field survey identified a total of 26 features, not all of them strictly archaeological ones but were important to the understanding of this historic wooded garden landscape. Apart from the known Roman bloomery site in the woods, the earliest archaeological evidence is the eastern boundary bank and ditch which dates back to when the cultivated land was cut out of the wider Wealden woodland; when that was we can only speculate at present.

What was striking about this woodland survey was the lack of usual woodland management archaeological features, from charcoal platforms and saw-pits to mine pits and internal boundary banks. With its steep sides and deeply incised ghylls, this would have always been an extremely difficult wood to work for timber and charcoal, even before it was ready for extraction!

However, what the wood lacked in the usual woodland archaeology, it gained in its obvious later use
as a Victorian and Edwardian ‘pleasure ground’ in this part of the southern extremity of the High Weald. This development of the garden and wider landscape at Heatherden started in late Victorian times and continued into the early Edwardian period. The 1987 storm obviously did considerable
damage to the planted aspect of this woodland, but some specimen trees still survive.

For anyone, including local people, with even the most basic interest of the history of Darch's Wood and the community of houses which surround it, this is an illuminating and fascinating read.

9 Sept 2019

Notice of Extraordinary General Meeting, 2nd October


Lucas Memorial Hall, Waldron, TN21 0QT 

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019 at 8.00pm 

You are invited to attend this extraordinary general meeting of the Society, called because it was impossible to complete business at the last AGM held on April 24th, 2019 due to the sudden death of the chair, John Plant.

This is a brief, but important meeting of the membership to elect a new chair and committee and to decide how to commemorate John’s life and his significance for the Society. We need 15 paid-up household representatives to be quorate.

Please make every effort to attend. 

  1. Election of chair, vice chair, treasurer and secretary (trustees of the Society);
  2. Election of committee members;
  3. Deciding on a suitable memorial to John Plant, chair 2013 to 2019. The provisional committee has been in discussion with John’s family and will have proposals to put before the meeting;
  4. Update of work scheduled for Darch’s Wood and autumn work parties.
 Refreshments will be provided.

Nominations for officers and the committee Members are invited to put forward their names or those of any paid up member who would like to serve either as an officer/trustee or as an additional member of the committee. Please make your nominations known to the membership secretary, Mike Baker by email or in advance of the meeting. 

Please reply to this notice confirming your attendance or send apologies plus any names to serve on the committee to: Mike Baker at: 

telephone 01435 866253.

* This notice is issued in accordance with clause 10 of the Constitution whereby an extraordinary general meeting can be convened at any time by a resolution of the Committee, and that members of the Society shall be given a minimum of 21 days notice.

6 Sept 2019

Tribute to our Chairman John Plant

Those of you that follow us on Facebook may already be aware of the sad and sudden passing of John Plant, our chairman, back in April of this year. This was a shock to us all, just a day before our AGM and we all miss him greatly.

John worked tirelessly for the local community. He fought to protect and preserve Darch’s Wood, giving what sometimes seemed like limitless time and energy towards fighting planning applications which would have had an adverse effect on the woods, or getting stuck in with path building, archaeological surveys and rhododendron clearance. His passion for and dedication to the woodland is evident when you walk through the woods today and look around you. The progress in the woods over the last few years has been remarkable, slowly but surely being restored to provide a sanctuary for nature and people alike. The result is a testament to John’s hard work and commitment.

Before he died, John received an official invitation to the Queen’s Garden Party in recognition of his services to the community. He passed away before the event but we can all agree that this was a well deserved award, one that he was proud to receive. His family attended on his behalf and enjoyed a memorable day at Buckingham Palace.

We will all very much miss working alongside John, both personally and professionally. His warm nature, his sense of humour, extensive local knowledge and dedication to the society over his six years as chair will be a tough act to follow. However, we are determined to continue the excellent work that he started.

We plan to plant some native trees in the woods, alongside an oak post with a commemorative plaque as a memorial to John.

19 Jan 2019

Volunteer Working Groups

As the notices that we put up at our entrance-ways state, these last two Saturdays (12th and 19th January 2019) we held volunteer working groups in the woods. The objective was to clear as much of the invasive non-native Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) and Rhododendron (R. ponticum) outbreaks that had completely taken over the incline immediately to the west of the pond, on the Back Lane side of the woods.

The Society was immensely pleased to see many local people and dogs (and not-so-local people/dogs!) turn up and contribute their time and sweat felling, burning, pruning and sawing, doing their best to help us return the woods to their former glory. We are truly grateful to each and every person (and dog!) who turned up and worked so hard, and a great deal of fun was had by all.

Special thanks must go out to Tom who today came with a small chainsaw and, himself, cleared as much of to the infestation as the whole working party managed the week before! A remarkable feat, and the difference is self-evident. Further thanks to Nigel who, with his electric reciprocating saw, was only stopped when his battery ran flat...

More Volunteer Working Groups are planned to go forwards (weather permitting), as advertised on our Facebook page. If you would also like to join us in keeping fit, helping give nature a chance to thrive, meeting new people and simply have a ball in these beautiful woods, why not grab your bow saw and loppers and join our group? You'd be warmly welcomed.

21 Dec 2018


Our last item for now about the history of Darch’s Wood, found that in April 1981 the Society was struggling to finance the maintenance of the wood, and was failing to persuade users of the wood to become members of the Society to make a token contribution to its upkeep.  Church Cottage was part of Mrs Darch’s bequest and soon became a prime target for disposal and acrimonious exchanges.

A former committee member expressed his lack of enthusiasm for selling Church Cottage in a letter to the Woodland Sub-Committee Chairman.  Here are some of the extracts from the exchange of letters.

“I am not at all enthusiastic about even contemplating selling the Church cottage.  Can I have your assurance that no serious steps have yet been taken towards the disposal of Church Cottage.  The donor is 100% against selling it and I think it would be extremely discourteous to do it in her lifetime.  It always constituted a major part of the gift and should not be disposed of lightly.  You have always said how concerned you were over cutting even one tree without Margaret’s permission and here you are obviously in favour of a major action which goes wholly against her wishes.  The County (The Council had visited the wood and written a report) have said that the woods are a viable proposition and therefore you cannot sell the cottage as a short-term measure when the long-term view does not justify it.  In forestry you always have to take the long view.”

Extracts from the response from the Woodland Sub-Committee Chairman started with a rather undiplomatic fist paragraph which included this statement.

“My first inclination was to throw it (your letter) into the wastepaper basket.”

Then went on to say:-

“I am advised that when you initially put forward the idea that the Society take over a portion of Heatherden Woods doubts were expressed by more than one committee member regarding the Society’s financial ability to maintain the woodland.  It is obvious to me that these doubts were justified.

The present position is that the cottage has been ruled as unfit for human habitation by the Local Housing Authority and until various repairs and alterations demanded by the Local Authority are carried out there is no question of anyone being permitted to live there.  Either the Society finds the considerable sum of money necessary to carry out the Housing Authority requirements or it stays empty.

The other solution is one of disposal of the cottage in order to raise funds that can yield a regular investment income to fund the Society’s obligations to maintain the woodlands.  The whole question of possible disposal is one which needs the consent of the Charity Commissioners.

I refuse to accept any implied censure from you on the matter. If you wish to influence the affairs of the Society I suggest you attend an AGM and get yourself re-elected.”


Critics from Essex

Continuing our research into the history of Darch’s Wood, we move on to November 1989, and paraphrase extracts from a highly critical letter written by a lady from Essex commenting on the state of the woodland two years after the hurricane. 

We thought we would enjoy walking in the woodland – the notice says it is for the enjoyment of the Community.  What a sad place it is still after all this long time – not really enjoyable.  Our local Nature Reserve had the same kind of damage.  The weekend following the storm a large party of volunteers cleared the driveway leading to the car park.  Subsequently teams of volunteer workers, school groups, scout groups, Duke of Edinburgh awards youth, watch groups etc, two 80 year olds, and many in their 70’s worked hard to clear branches twigs etc.  My husband (now 80) and I spend 2 to 3 hours each week clearing footpaths.  Our warden organises all the helpers.

You need a warden to rally the community into action to clear all the debris.  The paths need to be levelled and drainage ditches repaired.  We have a very enthusiastic chairman backed by a committee who all do their share of organising.  I say again, form a good hard-working committee.

Come on Cross in Hand, get going.  It’s your woodland.  Make it an enjoyable place to visit.

And here are paraphrased extracts from the Chairman’s response.

You might have considered how wounding your words are to the members of the Society, who have spent tens of thousands of pounds and uncounted hours converting a wood that has been left to deteriorate for 50 years into a beautiful amenity, all destroyed in a single night. 

80% of trees were lost and it was impossible to gain entry.  It took months just to cut paths through the fallen timber to evaluate a clearance plan.   It has taken 2 professional contractors to effect the partial clearance to enable access to the wood.  The thought of untrained volunteers working in such conditions is quite ludicrous and irresponsible.

I hope the extent of the damage suffered will give you cause to reflect your criticism of our local people.


Conditions of Access

In our third look into the history of Darch’s Wood, we go back to May 1976, which was days after the Amenities Society took ownership of the wood. 

The bequest of the woods was that they be preserved as a local amenity and enjoyed by the residents of the locality, (specifically residents of Cross in Hand and Waldron).  The committee had to decide how to honour the bequest, and the initial proposals were as follows:

1.      The wording of notices should preserve the private nature of the woods and notices should not give the impression it is a public park. 

2.      Notices displayed at the entrances would read ‘These woods are private but may be enjoyed by local residents if they observe certain conditions.’

3.      The following should be prohibited:  Horse riding, mechanically propelled vehicles, fire lighting, cycling, camping, caravans, playing of musical equipment, radios, musical instruments, removal or breaking down of wood, trees or shrubs, and the dumping of litter.

4.      No trees, shrubs or plants to be felled, damaged, uprooted or transplanted. 

5.      Residents were urged to safeguard their valuable natural amenity and to report any contraventions of the prohibitions.

6.      Access to the wood was to be granted on the understanding that the owners took no responsibility for any damage, loss or personal injury sustained by any person however caused, and members of the public traverse the woods entirely at their own risk. 

7.      Members of the committee would be issued with identification cards to provide a form of authority to request the identity of persons contravening the prohibitions.

Items 6 and 7 are particularly amusing as even in the less litigious 1970’s, landowners had a legal duty of care to the public, and we shudder to think what might happen had a committee member displayed a card and demanded to know who someone was.