January 2019 at Stackpole
With 2018 now a long way behind us, it’s been a busy start to 2019 on the Stackpole Estate. The unseasonably dry weather so far has given us a great chance to get ahead on many jobs that we would normally be doing knee-deep in mud!
Clearance work at Cheriton Bottom
We began the year in Cheriton Bottom Woods, clearing the remnants of storm damage. Before Christmas, the area was hit by high winds with the loss of around 20 mature grand fir trees.
We’ve been keeping the tractor and winch busy, clearing the trees and freeing the paths of root plates, with the timber extracted and ready to process to heat the Stackpole Centre.
Specimen trees at Lodge Park Wood
Work has also continued in Lodge Park Wood to thin the trees behind the summer house, continuing our plan to open out the central areas of the wood, allowing existing specimens the space to thrive and also creating gaps in which to plant the next generation.
Our final selection has left a mix of beech, lime, sweet chestnut, ash, a lone sycamore and a row of box. To add to this mix, we have two or three gaps where we will plant in some additional specimen trees before spring.
Delivering for nature at Gupton Farm
Gupton Farm is well worth a walk at this time of year, with many birds taking advantage of the mix of dune grassland, cultivated land and disturbed ground left by cattle.
Flocks of linnets and finches are feeding on the remnants of last year's arable crops, curlews and whimbrels are both regularly seen on the dune reversion fields, along with our year-round population of skylarks, while lapwings and snipe are tending to prefer the wetter fields towards the valley bottom.
By the end of January we also hope to have sheep joining the year-round cattle, grazing off early competitive plants in the dune reversion fields. The closer cropping effect of sheep grazing will hopefully benefit the rare dune grassland species by cutting through the dominant rye-grasses, giving more unusual flora an opportunity to germinate.
Winter work continues
Of course, as always, there is much more going on around the estate – clearing trees to open up new views by the hidden bridge, maintenance of silt traps at Cheriton Bottom, clearing invasive laurel in Caroline Grove and maintaining our car parks across the estate. Winter is often our chance to carry out essential conservation work across the whole of the site.
While it may feel like we are still in the midst of winter, I also spotted the first of the bluebells beginning to emerge in Castle Dock last week, a reminder that spring is not too far away.