Crowhurst Nature Reserve is a four and a half acre community-owned woodland in Crowhurst, East Sussex, known locally as Quarry Wood. It was bought by the village for the village in 1999 to protect and preserve it.

Paul Johnson is the warden and has been writing a series of articles called Tales from Quarry Wood for the village magazine since 2008. Our little reserve is the central thread and star turn, but his themes often range further, taking in ecology, botany, mycology, history, mythology, Latin and literature. All with a healthy dose of irreverence and the odd bit of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Click here for more about Paul and Crowhurst Nature Reserve; the most recent article is below  and you can explore all the previous articles through the chronological year tabs above or take a more meandering approach using the tags.

Two decades in a window!

Hello everyone! We had postponed the day once and, when the alternative weekend arrived, the seemingly interminable rain threatened to create the dampest of squibs. Undeterred we trusted our luck to the Meteorological Spirits and started preparations in the persistent precipitation.

The light trap was assembled the night before and situated in our lovely little net-sided gazebo, which was to double as a shelter from the worst of the rain and as a ‘moth den’ to enable people to view our specimens throughout the day.

A night spent listening to the rain beating on the ground had us questioning the decision to go ahead but the morning light peeked through the trees to reveal a day free of rain, with only the lightest of breezes; we had our window!

The first task was to check the light trap, hoping that the heavy rain had not done for both the gazebo and the moths. To our great delight there, waiting to greet us on the side netting, was a stunning Merveille du Jour (Griposia aprilina), a wonderful start!

Lorna had been busy over the last couple of months, producing posters, postcards, history notes and dozens of glorious photos of many of the moths, wildflowers, fungi, lichens, trees and animals recorded over the years in our little reserve. In addition to our Flora and Fauna, there were photos of all our events dating back to 2002 when we kicked off the relatively new millennium with a village festival, celebrating the purchase of the land three years before. The History Notes were placed at strategic points throughout the reserve, the moth pics hung in the den, and the rest of the picture boards were mounted in the information hub. All we needed was our new giant spider in the large cobweb in the Enchanter’s Dell, an amazing expanding shelter for the musicians and a cheery campfire with a kettle on the boil, we were ready for the public!

No sooner had Sarah made the first brew than the Brownies arrived en masse. Well prepared, the redoubtable Tawny Owl and Bat had set up a birdfeeder-making station and, after an impressive ‘body blob’ carried out with military precision, the sound of galloping coconut shells resounded through the trees in true BBC sound effects fashion.

While Ralph was astounding one set of children and adults with all things Lepidopteral in the Moth Den, the first History and Fungi tour set off. The former concentrated on our little corner of the village before, during and after the Bexhill West railway line was built. After seeing where the old road wound its way up to the top level of the reserve, the group was treated to a few nuggets of railway trivia. Who would have thought that seven hundred navvies lived in wooden huts in Crowhurst during the construction years 1898-1902, and that two of the people who made the very first train journey in’02 were on the very last train to use the line in 1964!

During the tour, the group kept a weather eye on the ground and tree stumps for fungi. The wet and mild conditions had ensured a good display, despite many of them having gone over, making accurate identification difficult. However, they were treated to clumps of golden Honey Fungus (Armillaria mellea), bejewelled patches of Amethyst Deceivers (Laccaria Amethystina), rows of the autologically sounding Jelly Ear (Auricularia auricula-judae) decorating Elder branches and a striking cluster of the immodestly named Spectacular Rustgill (Gymnopilus junonius) among many others. After the fun in the Moth Den, the Brownies had great sport pointing out every tiny mushroom to Lorna as she led them on a brisk jaunt around the reserve. The troop impressed everyone with their knowledge of the QW code, insisting that no-one should touch any fungi. This was especially important as they reconvened at the campfire for pack lunches supplemented with delicious toasted marshmallows

The morning was made complete as our old friends, Paul and Jo Dengate, known collectively as Glashin, joined us to provide some beautiful flute and guitar music. The sound floating through the trees to create a truly magical atmosphere.

So many people have been involved in creating our lovely little reserve where good conservation practice meets community engagement, and education combines with sheer enjoyment for young and old alike. Over the past twenty years the Crowhurst Society has overseen our patch with competence and efficiency, the Powdermill Trust provided advice and expertise, the venerable Arty Farties have backed three major events and the merry band of Quarry Wooders has rolled up in all weathers to maintain the reserve and prove that no task is too great. For making our twenty year celebration such a success, special thanks must go to Lorna for copious amounts of hard work both before and throughout the day, Ralph our expert in Butterflies, moths and so much more, Sarah, Chair of the Crowhurst Society, for ensuring the fire kept ablaze and the tea cups were always full, Adele for expertly dealing with the children’s quizzes, and Ian and Sarah for collecting and returning the tables from the Village hall and for manning the Information Hub and plant stall with plants kindly donated by Libby in Catsfield. Special thanks too to Fionn who helped set everything up and clear away afterwards along with Juliet and Jack. And finally, a thank you to the fifty or sixty locals who braved the elements and joined us. We just beat the closing of the window and the return of the wet and wild October weather.

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

H. Davies (1871-1940)

Bravo everyone, here is to the next twenty years!

Paul Johnson

The History boards are still in place – pop along for a self-guided tour if you couldn’t make it to the Open Day. Plus there are some Info leaflets and a Fungi ID leaflet in the Visitors’ Book by the bench – help yourself!

Twenty years on!

In the last twenty years, the Reserve has been sensitively managed by a group of local volunteers: clearance to make it accessible and safe; creating pathways, benches and glades; nature-based community events; and an ongoing species-monitoring programme to gradually build the conservation portfolio. It has a highly regarded fernery and a superb diversity of fungi, the accredited moth list is growing, the pond is measured fortnightly, there is an Ash Die-back monitoring zone, and a new bird-watching area has been opened up on the top tier. Many different birds fill the woodland canopy, and there is a plethora of insects and pondlife; there are resident rabbits, squirrels and badgers, and signs of foxes and deer passing through regularly.

A beautiful little Nature Reserve, rich in history, geology, ecology, biodiversity, conservation, trees, birds, flowers and fungi … enjoy!

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The Rains Came!

Hello everyone! June was also noteworthy for the first of the summer storms, giving many people in Sussex the nearest thing to experiencing a night in Thrudheim during one of Thor’s temper tantrums. The rain, while almost certainly being the wrong kind, had quite the impact on the local Fauna and Flora. Trees which were starting to take on a decidedly jaded appearance are now glowing with newfound vim and vigour, while the Ferns on the recently, de-brambled rockface in our little reserve now display their fronds with a haughty demeanour like so many verdant Fleurs-de-Lis.

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The Twin Goddesses

Hello everyone! During one of several moments in the course of a day when my mind wanders off into the ether and I find myself pondering the imponderables, I often turn to wordplay and consider the foibles of our beloved language. Today I was thinking of all those pairings that only sound correct when voiced in a certain order. It seems almost inconceivable to talk about white and black, drink and food, mash and bangers and, heaven forbid Wise and Morecambe! On reflection, it would not be earth shattering if the sequence of any of the above was, to paraphrase a certain Lancastrian gentleman, not necessarily in the right order!

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