Originally published September 2016
Hello everyone! Here we are at the swan song of a season that has been variable to say the least! Despite the erratic weather, the villagers made the most of the summer and, as usual, Crowhurst punched well above its weight in the number and variety of events crammed into the last few months.
We have commemorated the Battle of the Somme with a poignant summary of the lives of those men lost from the village and enjoyed a spectacular outdoor performance from the Rude Mechanicals in which those very birds I was defending in my previous scribble were the villains of the piece. Sue Pearce wrote a consummate review of the play and those of us involved with TQW were delighted with her nod to our endeavours by including the Latin names of all the bird characters, bravo Sue! A copious amount of energy was spent dancing the night away to the 1066 Rockitmen and many of us even found extra reserves in order to make good use of the beer tent at the Fayre the following day!
The first half of the year has seen a lot of activity in Quarry Wood also. The hardy work parties braved the vagaries of the British weather to haul fallen trees out of the pond before the breeding season started. A new path was created to take the more adventurous walkers to the level of the woodland canopy in order to get a new perspective of the Reserve and have the opportunity to study the fauna and flora of the tree tops. In a sudden rush of altruism, we even incorporated a few rough steps into the slope in order to give a modicum of assistance to any intrepid naturalists wishing to venture forth. Once the nesting season started officially in March, work was restricted to keeping footpaths clear of thorns, stingers and the odd fallen tree, casualties of the incessant wind and rain.
In June we welcomed Ralph Hobbs and his amazing Moth Trap back to Quarry Wood. A breezy night with a hint of rain kept us on tenterhooks throughout the night but a sunny morning saw an eager group of ‘mothites’ gathered around the trap with specimen jars and identification books to hand. We were fortunate to have local Moth expert David Burrows join us to help with the more difficult to identify specimens.
The total number of species was slightly down on last year but we came across a lot of our favourites including (here we go, Sue!) Rosy Footman (Miltochrista miniata) with its fine-liner wing markings, Scorched Wing (Plagodis dolabraria) looking as if it has just had a narrow escape from a forest fire, Beautiful Golden Y (Autographa pulchrina) with its beautiful golden Y and, one I am especially fond of, the White Ermine (Spilosoma lubricipeda) sporting a trimmed-cape that would not look out of place on a film set about the Tudors. No Hawk Moths in the trap but we were lucky enough to enjoy a twilight viewing of some Elephant Hawk-moths (Deilephila elpenor) feeding on Honeysuckle whilst we were waiting to turn the trap light on the evening before. We look forward to Ralph returning to us next year when we will set the trap a month earlier and see what species are around during the merry month of May.
For the last few years we have been watching out for signs of Ash-Dieback on the Reserve, believing it to be only a matter of time before it arrives, and in July our fears were confirmed.
The disease (see Fungal Fatalities and Festive Fare, December 2012) can be seen in a number of young Ash saplings (Fraxinus spp.) near the road bridge. With a forecasted loss of 95% of our Ash trees throughout the UK over the next fifteen years, we can only wish that those trees resistant to the fungus Chalara fraxinea start to proliferate and become the basis for the repopulation of one of our most familiar trees. Unfortunately, in the meantime, we will have to get used to the fact that our landscape is going to change over the foreseeable future; let us hope lessons have been learned and that tree suppliers in the future consider the reliability of the sources of their stock.
In addition to the walkers and nature lovers who regularly visit our little reserve, we have had a few groups interested in finding out a bit more about Quarry Wood. These include the good ladies of the WI who took a great interest in both the history and ecology of the wood. Their visit culminated in lighting a camp fire and toasting Some mores, contracted to S’mores (no Latin name that I am aware of, Sue!) which turned out to be chocolate and marshmallow sandwiched between Graham Crackers. I have no idea who Graham was, but I was definitely under the impression that this was a new-fangled idea for increasing your sugar intake. A bit of research has shown me how wrong I was when I discovered the earliest known recipe for s’mores in a copy of Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts, published in America in 1927. Clearly there is nothing new under the sun, stars or around the campfire!
The rest of this year promises to be busy for TQW with a talk to the Crowhurst Horticultural Society and the anniversary of the Crowhurst News both coming up in the next few weeks. It will soon be fungi time again and I know our resident expert, Jill, has started her quest for interesting species already. The work parties will be busy clearing the pond of arboreal casualties, making sure our Treetop path is stable and of course celebrating with a fire and mulled wine in December. But these are Tales for another time!
Let me bring you songs from the wood:
To make you feel much better than you could know.
Dust you down from tip to toe.
Show you how the garden grows.
Hold you steady as you go.
Songs From the Wood, Jethro Tull (1977)
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