March 2019 at Stackpole

A close-up of a new tree planted at Stackpole

The past month we’ve continued with our woodland work at Stackpole, with one last push to finish tasks before spring arrives in earnest. There’s no doubt of change in the air, with the unfurling of leaves and the smell of wild garlic ever present reminders of this.

What’s been happening in the woods?

As we pull out the last of the timber from our conifer thinning, we are following behind, spade and saplings in hand to plant in the next generation of understorey and eventual canopy.

This month we received a generous donation of trees through the Hay Festival’s Thirty Acre Wood project, a project between the Woodland Trust and the National Trust to mark Hay Festival's 30th anniversary in 2017.

The team busy planting at Gupton Farm
Rangers planting trees at Gupton Farm
The team busy planting at Gupton Farm

Tree planting and signs of spring at Gupton Farm

Our planting of trees has extended beyond the woodlands, with new banks and patches of shelter belts on the boundaries and forgotten corners of Gupton Farm.  

The saplings will have to be tough to reach maturity here, with exposure to Freshwater West beach and the Atlantic beyond up against them.  Even in their eventual stunted form though, they will serve to provide food and shelter to wildlife on the farm, with the planned network creating corridors to allow migration routes across the landscape.

With the song of the skylark marking the end of winter at Gupton Farm, so too ends the winter grazing regime. The sheep which have done a great job of cropping the dune grassland reversion fields, subduing the early growth of the more vigorous docks, nettles and ragwort and allowing space for some of our more unusual flora to flourish.

Before all the ewes have come off the farm, a few lucky lambs have been born there – one as witnessed on the bridleway to the beach – not a bad view to spend your first few weeks of life with! Meanwhile on the arable fields, work is underway to cultivate the ground ready for the barley crop to be sown.

Seasonal sights

Back to the estate’s woodlands and it’s encouraging to see the success of work carried out earlier in the winter and over previous years. It’s always reassuring to see bluebells, wild garlic and snowdrops flourishing amongst the newly sprouting stumps of trees cut last October as part of ride management work in Castle Dock.

I will never tire of seeing newly planted trees coming into leaf – first the birch and hornbeam, although the hazel and chestnut are not far behind.

So with loose ends from winter tied up and reflections upon the season past complete, we look forward to greener times ahead as the mowers are dusted off, signs are cleaned and painted and potholes are filled.

Keep an eye out in April for a sea of white ransoms in the lower part of Lodge Park Wood – my favourite is from the Walled Gardens down to the old ice house – or a carpet of bluebells above the car park in Castle Dock.

Bluebells are starting to make an appearance
Close-up of bluebells
Bluebells are starting to make an appearance