Field Reports

Thursday 4th April 2019    Hollybank Woods

Leader  John Bond

18 intrepid explorers braved a cold, wet and blustery April morning to meet John Bond for a walk around Hollybank Woods, in north Emsworth.  John explained the history of the woods, from the wildwoods of the distant past, to more recent times as part of the Southleigh estate, now leased to Havant Borough Council for 999 years. The woods have been managed by the Friends of Hollybank Woods since 2002 for conservation and as a working woodland.

John led us north along the main path from Hollybank Lane, to meet two Andrews: Andrew the forester, and Andy the Chair of the Friends of Hollybank Woods.  Together they explained the issues of improving and sensitively managing the different areas of forest, using only hand tools.  Some areas were originally Forestry Commission softwood, replanted after both world wars to replace felled trees.  The replanting was a mixture of different trees so it has little commercial worth, but still produces useful wood.  Andrew showed us how small clearings had been created, allowing log piles and grass to stabilise the soil and create a place for naturally regeneration with closely growing seedling trees, already 1-2 metres high after only a few years.  

We walked to a different part of the wood to see silver birch coppice being developed from scratch.  Hay bales and dead log piles increased the benefit to slow worms, mice and insects.  Finally we visited an area of coppiced holly. Andrew explained how holly wood and coppiced holly was used for beams and construction long before the Romans introduced sweet chestnut.  

We also heard the story of the great oak trees, which were planted by the Royal Navy 280 years ago, to provide for their future timber needs, splendid long term planning. However when the 280 year  contract term fell due in 2002, the Royal Navy no longer needed the oak trees, due to be delivered to Portsmouth harbour,  and has returned their ownership to the woods, where they still grow!

The cold and wet weather kept most birds and insects in hiding, but we heard mistle thrush, nuthatch, and great spotted woodpecker.  The bluebells were just coming into flower, and there were some scattered dog-violets.  

A few hardy members stayed for a picnic lunch in the glade.

  Helen Dignum

The woodland explorers

A holly coppice stump

Andrew the forester explains holly coppicing

A dog violet

Chichester, West Sussex

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