Watch Out for the Bluebells!

(Posted on behalf of Doug Edworthy)

The Bluebells are beginning to push their leaves above ground in preparation for the magnificent display they put on for us each year. But after seeing the recent damage to plants in Dallington Forest from off-road motor bikes I felt I should pen a short article about these beautiful flowers of ancient woodland.

photo of bluebells in Dallington SSSI
Bluebells in Dallington SSSI. Credit: Doug Edworthy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bluebells face two existential threats: competition with the more vigorous Spanish bluebell which has been escaping from gardens and hybridizing with our native species for 300 years, and the effects of change or disturbance (which is why they are an indicator of ancient, undisturbed woodland).

Hybridisation

There is a real danger of losing the genetic integrity of one of our best-loved native wildflowers, not to mention the spectacular colour and scent, because our native bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) readily cross-breeds with both its Spanish cousin Hyacinthoides hispanica, often planted in gardens, and with the resulting fertile hybrid Hyacinthoides hispanica x non-scripta. But, do you know the difference between the species?

Photograph of native bluebell
Image Credit: Doug Edworthy

Native bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta

This bulbous perennial, native to north-western Europe, seems to prefer slightly acidic soils and partial shade. Early in the growing season, they can be a dominant species in coppiced woods on light soils, but they are also found on hedge-banks and sea-cliffs.

The native bluebell’s deep violet-blue flowers have a strong sweet scent, the pollen is yellow and the flower stems droop or nod distinctively to one side.

White-flowered native bluebells are exceedingly rare. If you are tempted to take one home, please note: it’s against the law to intentionally pick, uproot or destroy native bluebells.

Photo of Spanish bluebell
Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Spanish bluebell Hyacinthoides hispanica

This species, native to Portugal and western Spain, was first introduced in British gardens as an ornamental plant in the 1680s. It was favoured over the native because it can grow on almost any soil and has bolder blooms.  It is a larger, more upright plant than the native bluebell. Its flowers range in colour from pale to mid blue, or white or pink, and has characteristically deep blue pollen but no scent. The Spanish bluebell was first recorded in the wild in the UK in 1909. This species is often confused with the hybrid and has therefore probably been over-recorded by botanists in the past.

Hybrid bluebell Hyacinthoides hispania x non-scripta

The Spanish bluebell readily cross-breeds with the native bluebell to form the fully fertile hybrid. The hybrid was first recorded in the wild in the UK in 1963 and is also extremely common in gardens. Hybrid plants can demonstrate characteristics of both the native and Spanish bluebells.

What can we do about the non-native bluebells?  Well, plant only native bluebells in your garden and be on the lookout for Spanish or Hybrid bluebells in the wild. If you find some, let me know and/or Sussex Wildlife Trust. Please don’t uproot them unless they are on your land, and then only if you are absolutely sure they aren’t native.

Disturbance

The other threat comes directly from the impact of us walking where bluebells grow and, unintentionally or not, damaging them. It’s against the law to intentionally pick, uproot or destroy native bluebells.

During their active phase, which runs from February through until the leaves have died back in Summer, they are extremely susceptible to damage from our boots. Treading on the soft, succulent leaves damages them so they can no longer photosynthesis and they die back. This reduces their ability to put food back into their bulbs, reducing the plants’ ability to produce flowers and seeds.

Also, soil compaction damages the bulbs so they won’t appear next year. You can see the effect of this along many woodland paths where not keeping to paths during the bluebell season has widened the paths as the bluebells recede.

Bluebell colonies take a long time to establish – around 5-7 years from seed to flower, and can take years to recover after footfall damage so please keep to paths and resist the temptation to step into the blue for a selfie or a photo opportunity. Your feet could be doing more damage than you realise.

Enjoy the sight and scent of these wonderful flowers and take care where you tread so they will still be carpeting our woodlands for future generations to marvel at.

Wanted: Tree Champions in Brightling and Dallington parishes!

(Posted on behalf of Doug Edworthy, Tree Warden/Champion,  Dallington & Brightling)

For a number of years, the two parishes have shared one Tree Champion. But there is no limit on the number a parish can have. This was brought home to me recently during a zoom webinar on the new Rother Tree Champion scheme during which I discovered some areas have a half a dozen or more. There are so many things that need to be done in our parishes and I really need some help doing them.

If this interests you, here’s what The Tree Council, the organization that set up the National Tree Warden scheme, says about the role (https://treecouncil.org.uk/take-action/tree-wardens/):

What Tree Wardens do

Tree Wardens plant, protect and promote their local trees. No training or experience in tree management is needed – just a love of trees and a few hours to spare. Tree Wardens are organised into local groups. Each group is managed by a co-ordinator and is autonomous, meeting regularly to decide what they would like to focus on.

Some of the projects Tree Warden groups have done include:

    • Arranging local tree planting days
    • Pruning, watering and giving vital aftercare to local trees after planting
      Rejuvenating local woodlands in need of management
      Raising funds and identifying suitable land for local tree planting projects
      Going into schools to talk to young people about the value of trees.

To that list I would add:

    • Surveying the tree stock of the parishes so that informed decisions can be made about planning and other activities that impact our trees, and
    • Conducting guided walks for our parishioners.

Please get in touch if you think you could help (contact details below). You don’t have to be a tree expert (I’m not) – just enthusiastic!

Doug Edworthy, Tree Champion, Brightling & Dallington Parish Councils
Email: treewarden@dallington.org.uk   Mobile: 07711 090925

Old School Newsletter & National Village Halls Week 25-29th January

photograph of village hallThis month, Dallington Old School publishes our annual newsletter Old School News January 2021  to coincide with National Village Halls Week .

Organised by ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England), Village Halls Week  is “a national celebration of the 10,000+ village halls which can be found across England, their volunteers and the difference they make to the rural communities they serve” –  this years theme is “Celebrating 100 years of village halls”.  Find out more about NVHW and the programme of events  -sadly all online this year due to Covid restrictions – at https://acre.org.uk/our-work/village-halls-week   You can also follow us on Twitter  (@DallingtonOSVH) to see how we’re joining in.

We also have our own entry in the new Village Halls Domesday Book, which is creating an online record “to demonstrate how important these buildings are, and what is needed to make sure they survive in the future”

Do take a look at our newsletter  Old School News January 2021 FINAL to find out what the Old School Management Committee have been doing behind the scenes to maintain and improve the fabric of the building while we are closed and to implement new procedures so we can re-open safely and confidently when permitted to do so.  We can’t wait to welcome you all back  as soon as possible

 

 

St Giles Services Christmas 2020 -January 2021

Christmas 2020

Due to COVID restrictions there will not be the usual service of
Nine Lessons and Carols.
  • December 24th           11.30pm    Midnight Holy Communion
  • Christmas morning  11am          Carols in the churchyard.
    (Mulled wine. Please observe social distancing)
  • Sunday December 27th       No service in St. Giles.

January 2021

  • Sunday  3rd     11am             Service of The Word
  • Sunday  10th   6.30pm       Evensong
  • Sunday  17th   11am.            Holy Communion
  • Sunday 24th   9.30am        Holy Communion
  • Sunday 31st     11am             Service of The Word

Dallington Forest Walk #1

Posted on behalf of Doug Edworthy (Tree Champion, Dallington and Brighton): We may not be able to restart group walks for a while due to COVID-19, so I’ve started putting together self-guided walks in the forest for people to use at their leisure. This is the first of (hopefully) many so I would really value your feedback on content, presentation and whether you found it helpful in guiding your walk.

Dallington Forest Walk No. 1 Ancient Forest Ghyll, Hollow Ways and the PoW Tree

Map of walkOn this walk you will experience one of Dallington Forest’s ancient woodland ghylls full of majestic veteran Beech trees, prehistoric rippled sandstone beds and the Prisoner of War tree, and also hollow ways formed by the feet of many millennia of travellers.

In Spring the ancient woodland ghyll is full of the sight and scent of stunningly beautiful bluebells and ransoms (wild garlic).  The starting and finishing point is the end of the metalled surface of Bakers Lane, Dallington. This is also the junction of three footpaths and a bridleway. Unfortunately, there is no car park here or in Dallington Forest and the nearest public parking is the lay-by on the B2096 at Wood Corner.

Download the full walk with map and descriptions:   Dallington Forest Walk 1

Length: 3.2 km (2 mi) [includes 1.5 km round-trip from/to car-parking]
Level of difficulty for people in normal health:

      • Under 50 yrs = Easy; you’ll hardly notice it
      • 50 – 60 yrs = Good exercise; it’ll raise your heart rate
      • 60 – 70 yrs = Taxing; you’ll know you’ve done it
      • Over 70 yrs = Quite challenging

Thinking of planting trees or hedgerows?

[Posted on behalf of Doug Edworthy]

Map showing Dallington Forest Project Area
Map showing Dallington Forest Project Area

Have you been thinking about planting some woodland or hedges on your land?

Our beautiful AONB in the High Weald is characterised by interlinked pockets of ancient woodland and small irregular-shaped fields and it is important to maintain and enhance this as much as possible. So, of course, it has to be ‘the right trees in the right places’.

Your Brightling and Dallington Tree Champion is seeking landowners with suitable land in Brightling and Dallington parishes that falls within the Dallington Forest Project area (see map above – larger version at end of this post) for planting-up of small woodlands or hedges. Dallington parishioner Jamie Simpson has a source of funding for the supply of native trees together with the necessary protection from rabbits and deer. The cost to landowners would be for planting labour and follow up aftercare necessary for successful establishment.

Suitable planting projects would be:

    • Creating new woodlands (with the proviso that important grassland or heathland habitat is not damaged or destroyed)
    • Creating new woodland to link existing pockets of ancient woodland
    • Filling gaps in neglected or poor condition hedges to restore them
    • Replacing some of the enormous number of hedges that were removed in the 20th century’s drive for bigger agricultural fields

Planted trees/hedges must be able to be appreciated by the public, so must be within sight of a road, right of way or on public land. Grants need to be applied-for during the summer so that the funding is available for an autumn/winter planting project.

If you are interested in this project please contact me as soon as possible.

Doug Edworthy, Tree Champion, Brightling & Dallington Parish Councils  treewarden@dallington.org.uk 07711 090925

Map showing Dallington Forest P
Map showing Dallington Forest Project Area

 

Ringers Return

(Posted on behalf of Diana Day)

Ringers Return
Photo of Dallington Church TowerNo, the Swan Inn has not changed its name, the Bellringers have taken up ringing again at St Giles Church, Dallington. With churches now open and Services occurring, we are chiming the bells on Sundays. We are only allowed to ring for 15 minutes, social distancing restricts us to alternate bells only to sound out. There will be no practice on Mondays for the foreseeable future, no visiting bands, but it’s a start. Diana Day