What's happening on Denbies Hillside

Hawthorn berries in the winter

The views are always spectacular on Denbies but the cold weather and clear days can offer an extra special scene, particularly in the early morning or evening. Frost on tall grasses and teasels are my favourite.

Autumn/winter is the time of year the chalk downs go to sleep. Few plants are flowering now and the last of the butterflies have gone. Some of our wildlife are preparing for hibernation. Reptiles are looking for a rabbit burrow or tree stump to hide in and dormice are making snug little nests below the leaf litter to curl up and hibernate in. 

Wildlife fact: In the United Kingdom the only mammals that hibernate are bats, hedgehogs and dormice.

Goldfinches

Look out for these beautifully coloured birds with their bright red faces. They have a delightful liquid twittering song and call. Their long fine beaks allow them to extract seeds from thistles and teasels.

Winter food for our wild birds

You’ll notice the bright red berries of the hawthorn as you walk around the hill. The wild berries help to sustain many birds over the winter months. Our hedgerows provide a ‘wild food larder’ for our wildlife.

Wood mice

The sleek, quick-witted wood mouse lives in woodland, scrub and hedgerows. They're  particularly fond of our rose hips and will gnaw the fleshy red coat to access to the seeds inside. In the autumn they gather berries and nuts to be stored for winter consumption – known as caching. The wood mouse must gnaw to survive. The continual growth of its teeth must be kept in check by continual grinding.

Wood mouse fact: Its long back legs enable it to leap up to an amazing 4ft.

 

Our work over the coming months

Tree and scrub clearance

Scrub is encroaching onto a number of our grassland areas and needs to be cleared in order to maintain our flower rich chalk grassland. We'll be clearing some patches throughout the winter months. 

Replacement cattle fencing

Our old steel canister fencing is well over a hundred years old and is sadly no longer fit for purpose as it allows our cattle to escape. 

We’ll be clearing scrub along the fence lines in preparation for removing the old wire but leaving the old steel canister posts in place as a historic feature.

New steel Clipex fencing will then be erected to provide a stock proof barrier for many years to come. This project will funded by a Viridor Credits grant.

Amanda McCormick
Area Ranger, North Downs West