Feb 23 Hendall Wood, East Sussex, by Duncan and Bridget
My wife fancied a wood – and like looking for a new house – she couldn’t decide what she wanted ….except everything: stream, ponds, hills, valleys, variety of trees, pretty flowers, bunnies – but no squirrels or bracken, etc. So we looked at 15 woods and eventually stumbled on one we both liked…
… so we bought it in 2004. 20 acres or so. Then began the learning curve. We joined SWA, went on several SWA visits, bought some books, learnt how to spot a hornbeam, went on coppicing and fungi ID courses. Wife was getting quite keen now and quite liked the other half of the wood. So we bought that too. Now we have 55 acres.
Hendall is all designated Ancient Semi Natural Woodland (ASNW) with unmanaged Sweet Chestnut coppice at one end and seriously unmanaged Ash & Hornbeam at the other end, with a scattering of veteran beech, pine & oak. Little commercial value at all , enough deadwood for a menagerie, but “really nice”.
We have some big holes which we invited Wealden Iron Research Group (WIRG) to look into. “Very big holes for the area” they said – not seen before. Iron or sand pits: eight of them. Exciting…and my son surveyed the 8 pits with his new GPS which we bought him for Christmas.
WIRG mattocked about in our bloomeries, coming up with Roman Pottery.
Orchids as well – 3 species, in a bit of alder carr. Lots of ASNW indicator species were spotted in our Ecological Survey (sponsored by FC) and by other knowledgeable botanists who did quadrat surveys – over 200 species excluding the mosses, lichens, fungi. In Spring, anenomes are everywhere, bluebells in large patches. We have completed a Veteran tree count (>30 on our measure) of which 2 have succumbed to windblow in our ownership.
In the 1540-1570 period, iron maker Ralph Hogge operated 4 furnaces including Hendall (1 km n. of our wood). Hogge is noted for casting the first English iron cannon at nearby Buxted in 1543 (prior to that, cannons were brass). The pits in Hendall Wood may well have served local furnaces.
Hendall Wood extended to the north-east and south of the current boundary, as indicated on this OS surveyors draft map of 1800 (reproduced with permission of High Weald AONB).
In 2006 we planned for 6 coups at the east end of the wood, each 0.3-1 ha to be coppiced in rotation. The first acre of coppice and 500m of ride widening was completed in winter 2007/08, and 08/09 will see clearing some 1987(!) devastation. Further coups will follow in 09/10 for the next few years. The Forestry Commission support of a Woodland Improvement Grant has been helpful, and the advice of our coppice manager, Iain Turner (Wealden Heartwood) has been essential. Meanwhile the majority of the wood will be relatively ‘untouched’ and enjoyed as ‘wild wood’.
The mouse nibbling the anemone
The low swooping owl in the afternoon
The discovery of a new orchid patch
The scratching badgers
The screeching woodcock
The wind rustling ash keys
The frog hopping down the stream
The sunbathing grass snake
The flock of 40 or so Goldfinches
The Deer …always the deer…
The increasing deadwood habit …always trees falling over
The silence …