The Rise of Northwood blog

A team of volunteers workingin a field on a woodland restoration project

The story so far….

Here on the Slindon Estate, we have the exciting opportunity to return 185 acres of farmland back to its former wooded landscape over 100 years ago. If you can imagine the scale of 100 full sized football pitches, that’s the area we’re turning back into woodland.

Walkers enjoy the wide open views along the track to Little Wood
Walkers enjoy the wide open views along the track to Little Wood
Walkers enjoy the wide open views along the track to Little Wood

The project

Walking through Northwood, you find yourself surrounded by former arable fields. However, just over 100 years ago there would have been an ancient woodland here packed full of huge beech and oak trees. It’s not like this today because of a demand for timber during the First World War. The trees of Northwood were felled to support the war effort and used for trench reinforcement and pit props, as well as building material. During the Second World War, Northwood was ploughed and farmed to help support British food production.  Beyond this, it was continually farmed for crop and cattle fodder until September 2013 when the land was returned to National Trust to be managed.

Canadian Forestry Corp at Northwood lumber camp in First World War
Canadian Forestry Corp at Northwood lumber camp in First World War
Canadian Forestry Corp at Northwood lumber camp in First World War

A kind bequest

We must mention at this point that the ‘Rise of Northwood’ only exists thanks to the kind generosity of a gentleman named Mr John Springthorpe Hunt.  He loved the South Downs and was keen to see more thriving woodland areas – with this in mind, he left a bequest to the National Trust. To acknowledge his amazing gift, we will be naming part of the project site after his family name.  We have also gained additional funding from a Forestry Commission Woodland Creation Grant, which will help us with tree planting and after care.

Latest updates

15 Feb 19

A room with a view

This week we put up two barn owl boxes, just in time before these birds of prey start looking for their nesting sites. These triangular boxes are best situated in mature trees, isolated in a hedgerow or on the woodland edge. Ideally the tree needs to have few or no low branches and be close to rough grassland. Northwood is the perfect location - The wood pasture fields are saturated with the barn owls favourite rodent on the menu – the field vole. However, they also prey on bank voles, shrews, mice, rats and small birds. After their numbers fell dramatically during the 20th Century, Britain's barn owl population is beginning to recover. Much of that is thanks to the work of conservationists providing safe places for breeding pairs to raise their young. Barn owls are cavity nesting birds; they don’t create their own nest holes and often use hollow trees. By installing these boxes we can mimic a natural nesting site and encourage these birds into our boxes. By doing so, we will then be able to monitor and record their breeding success. They often lay their eggs as early as March so fingers crossed our boxes will have lodgers in soon, we’ll keep you posted.

A barn owl box in winter

16 Jan 19

Happy new year!

What better way to kick star the New Year than with a Northwood Task Day. Ripping out ancient stock fencing and repairing numerous tree tubes were the jobs of the day. When we took over the ex-arable Northwood fields, we also inherited over 6km of unnecessary barbed wire fencing. The fencing was mostly overgrown with vegetation and falling apart in areas, not to mention an eyesore. For wildlife to pass freely (and walkers, in sections) without getting harmed, it all needed to go. Believe me, it’s not the easiest stuff to remove and the brambles certainly don’t help. We’ve been gradually picking away at it over the last four years and hopefully this month we should see the last of it. Thanks to high winds and curious critters some of our tree tubes have needed a little extra tender loving care this month. Either the wooden stakes supporting the tubes upright had loosened or the cable ties holding them up had come apart (some might even say nibbled apart). With some maintenance they were back up and fully protecting the tree saplings inside again. We’re always so grateful for the time our volunteers dedicate. These aren’t the most exciting or even enjoyable tasks that Northwood have to offer but they’re tasks that need doing to help Northwood flourish. So thanks again team, and here’s to 2019….now with less barbed wire and healthier growing saplings.

Barbed wire removed from old arable fields

08 Dec 18

Littlewood lookout open for business!

Firstly I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who came to the official opening. It was wonderful to have a mixture of ages and a range of backgrounds, including those from the village, representatives from the SDNPA Sustainable communities fund as well as both internal volunteers and volunteers from the SDNPVRS. Having met at Northwood Junction the large band of 40-50 intrepid explorers followed the least muddy track across the fields. This enabled a fantastic view of the new building from a distance. Once everyone had gathered a very short speech was given before Jane, the general manager for the estate cut the ribbon and declared Littlewood Lookout officially open.

Cutting the ribbon at the opening of Littlewood lookout, Slindon Estate