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.


The Rains Came!

Hello everyone! The weeks leading up to the Summer Solstice were packed with a number of memorable events. Notable among these were the political jockeying in Westminster, gentle politicking from the local Neighbourhood Plan, verges scrutinised by the Crowhurst Environment Group and the very distressing sight of widespread tree cutting in the neighbouring villages. The rationalisation for the latter is that many of the trees had been infected by various diseases and the destruction was carried out for the safety of the public. We can only hope that this was indeed the case and that every course of action was considered carefully before taking such drastic measures during the Nesting Season. Vigilance is required from every one of us in this age of carefree environmental vandalism.

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.

Many of our wildflowers have done their duty for the species, flaunted their colours for a short while and then vanished for another year. Bluebells, Early Purple Orchids, Wild Garlic and the ever-expanding patch of Town Hall Clock plants, to name but a few, have come and gone.

Common Cow-Wheat

They have been replaced by the semi-parasitic Common Cow-Wheat (Melampyrum pratense), the distinctive Hedge Woundwort (Stachys sylvatica) and our recently discovered Broad-leaved Helleborines (Epipactis helleborine).

Hedge Woundwort

The Helleborines have been so successful this year that they have started growing on the footpath which was quickly diverted away from them. Little could be done for the two found growing next to the pondside bench though, their fate is in the laps of the woodland deities!

The Dust replaced, in Hoisted Roads
The Birds jocoser sung
The Sunshine threw his Hat away
The Bushes – spangles hung

Summer Shower, Emily Dickinson (1863)

Until recently, a stroll through the Reserve, and the surrounding countryside, would have resulted in the unwary rambler getting soaked waist high from wet Bracken and Dock, and attacked by Nettle and Bramble that had sprung up, seemingly overnight, after the rain. In addition to the dampness, stings and scratches from the encroaching vegetation, there was a good chance of becoming targeted by several of the Mini-biters newly hatched in the puddles and ponds formed from the abundance of surface water.

Don’t panic Dear Reader, the industrious ladies and gents of the Quarry Wood Team kitted themselves out and swung into action clearing footpaths and making sure that those wonderful plants stayed in their place for the insects and birds to benefit from. Nothing can be done about the Mozzies and Midges I am afraid, just cover up when walking near the water and take comfort that those very blighters that are after your blood are themselves an important part of the food chain!

Some insects we have not seen too many of thus far are the bejewelled Damsels, Dragons and butterflies that are usually in abundance around the pond and woodland clearings. I hope by the time the National Dragonfly Week and Big Butterfly Count, which start on the 13th and 19th July respectively, come around this off-putting wind has dropped, and we get a chance to see some of our glorious, local Lepidoptera.

Before I leave you to go off and enjoy whatever type of summer the great, British weather allows us, here is a date to be written in your diaries and calendars, tapped into your phones or magnetically secured to your fridge doors, Sunday 29th September. This is not only National Moth Night but is the date of our QW Open Day, celebrating twenty years since the land was bought by the village. We aim to start at 10.00 am when Ralph Hobbs will reveal whatever moths have been attracted to the light trap overnight. There will be representatives from the various organisations that have contributed to the Reserve over the years, lots of information, some fire and fun and another opportunity to listen to the beautiful music of our Folk friends, Glashin. There will be a chance to chat to the hard-working Quarry Wooders and take part in any games and trails we dream up ‘tween now and then. Not to be missed!

This bud of love, by summer’s ripening breath,
May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.
Romeo and Juliet

 Paul Johnson

Last month, expert botanist Jacqueline Rose gave us an impromptu lesson in fern identification. We have EIGHT different species in Quarry Wood, but you might have to look at the spore patterns on the underside of the fronds to tell them apart…

Broad-buckler fern

Lady fern

Scaly Male fern

Image credits: 
Original Crowhurst photography: Lorna Neville

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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Ma Nature’s Palette

Hello everyone! Here we are in the merriest of months, once more wondering just how Ma Nature copes with the vicissitudes of our British weather. April produced several days that let us experience all four seasons during the gradually increasing hours of daylight, then concluded with a sudden spell in which the mercury was so high there was a mass outbreak of shorts among the Great British male population!

An altogether more pleasing sight was the explosion of colour that has permeated throughout our woodlands and hedgerows over the last few weeks.

However, the predominant floral colour in our little corner of the world has, in my opinion, got to be white…

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