Doug Edworthy, our Dallington Tree Warden, will be holding a virtual webinar on 4th May, 3-4pm.
The subject for this webinar is ancient and veteran trees and will include a presentation about the ancient and veteran trees in Dallington Forest.
It is open to anyone with an interest in trees, just click on the link below to register.
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.
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).
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?
Native bluebellHyacinthoides 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.
Spanish bluebellHyacinthoides 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 bluebellHyacinthoides 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.
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.
(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.
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!
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
On 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.
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.
Our Tree Warden is obviously not doing guided walks in Dallington Forest at present due to the lockdown.
So he is putting together some self-guided walks in the forest for people to use at their leisure.
Click on the link below for the first one
Rare Black poplar trees looking for a planting place
Our tree Warden, Doug Edworthy, has had a great response from people willing to have one of the rare (and free) Black poplar plants growing on their land.
Due to the generosity of Wakehurst Place (the Kew Gardens outstation where clones of the remaining Black poplar strains are being cultivated) we have six plants more than we have planting places!
These Populus nigra betulifolia can live for up to 200 years and grow to 30 m (100 feet) high. They are the food plant for the caterpillars of many moths, including the hornet, wood leopard, poplar hawk and figure of eight. The catkins provide an early source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects, and the seeds are eaten by birds.
Doug is looking for land that is boggy or wet, close to a watercourse or on a floodplain owned by someone who would value having one of our rarest trees on their land. If possible, a planting position within sight of a road or public right-of-way would be preferred so they are visible to the public.
They must all be planted by the beginning of March before bud-burst so please get in touch with me urgently if you are interested. Contact details at the end of this message.
To protect the trees from deer and rabbits, and ensure their best start in life, Doug will provide netting, stakes, rabbit guards, tree-ties, mulch and other planting accessories which he has purchased himself, so he would be grateful if the landowner could reimburse these costs at £20.44 per tree.
Also, any help to dig holes and erect fencing would be gratefully received as a total of 29 trees need planting before March.
Mobile 07711 090 925
Tel 01435 830195
Message from the Tree Council and Defra forwarded via our tree warden, Doug Edworthy.
“Dear Tree Wardens,
We’ve been asked by colleagues at Defra for your help with an urgent tree health matter concerning recent outbreaks of Oak Processionary Moth.
If you know anyone who has recently planted larger oaks (as defined in the press notice below) imported from the continent, Defra is requesting that they check these trees for OPM, and report any findings to Tree Alert. At this time of year, you are most likely to notice the hairy-looking caterpillar or web-like nests – please do not touch either as they could potentially be harmful to your health. Please find further guidance from Defra below, and for more information on the moth and its identification, visit Observatree or Forest Research. Thank you for your help in this important matter. Warm regards, The Tree Council Team”
Copy of Press Notice:
“Horticulture industry urged to check for Oak Processionary Moth
Landscapers, nurseries, landowners and woodland managers are being urged to take action after the Plant Health Service intercepted a number of cases of Oak Processionary Moth caterpillars (OPM) on trees imported from the Netherlands.
Anyone who has planted larger oaks (defined below) imported from the continent should urgently check their trees for OPM and report any findings to TreeAlert. It is vital that these trees are checked now to minimise the spread of this damaging tree pest and protect the health of our oak trees.
OPM is an established pest in parts of London and surrounding areas, but the rest of the country is designated as a Protected Zone. Swift action is being taken by the Plant Health Service to eradicate recent findings of OPM in Hampshire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire, including surveillance, tracing work and destruction of both the caterpillars and infested trees. The Plant Health Service have also announced an urgent review of import controls on oaks.
OPM caterpillars feed on oak leaves and can increase trees’ vulnerability to attack by other pests and diseases, making them less able to withstand weather conditions such as drought and floods. The cases highlight the need for continued vigilance from industry and government to protect the UK’s trees.
Dr Anna Brown, Head of Tree Health & Contingency Planning, Forestry Commission, said: “Those of us involved in importing or trading plants must maintain our vigilance against exotic pests and diseases such as OPM. There is a lot we can do such as buying British, only buying stock from reputable, responsible suppliers and inspecting imported plants.
“Inspect, inspect and inspect again – we can’t check imported plants too often for signs of trouble. Don’t presume that because your supplier found no evidence of a pest or disease that you won’t either. You might spot something that they have missed.”
The Forestry Commission, councils and land managers tackle the pest with an annual control programme of tree treatment. Increased measures to protect the country from the spread of OPM were introduced in 2018. Restrictions on the import of most species of oak into England have also been introduced as part of these regulations to protect native trees.
Professor Nicola Spence, Defra Chief Plant Health Officer, said: “Since 2012 we have invested more than £37 million in tree health research, including a dedicated programme of research and development on oak.
“We will continue to work with local authorities and land managers to tackle OPM with a control programme of treatment and surveillance. In 2018, we introduced tighter restrictions on the importation of oak trees to England but are now looking at options to strengthen these even further.
“The Plant Health Service has received reports of an exceptional expansion of the OPM population in parts of Europe, due the hot weather experienced last year.”
If you suspect OPM, you should not attempt to destroy or move infected material yourself as the nests and caterpillars can pose some risks to human health. For more on how to identify OPM, visit https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/opm.
Further information:Larger oaks are defined here as those with a girth >8cm at 1.2m above the root collar.
To report sightings of pests and diseases, use the TreeAlert online portal: https://treealert.forestresearch.gov.uk/
The Plant Health Service is made up of Defra, Animal and Plant Health Agency and the Forestry Commission.
For more on OPM, visit: https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/tools-and-resources/pest-and-disease-resources/oak-processionary-moth-thaumetopoea-processionea/
For guidance on importing trees and plants to England and Wales from the EU visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/importing-trees-and-plants-to-england-and-wales-from-the-eu
To find out more about plant health Protected Zones visit: https://planthealthportal.defra.gov.uk/resources/plant-health-protected-zones/
To find out how the government will work with others to protect England’s tree population from pest and disease threats, see the Tree Health Resilience Strategy: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/tree-health-resilience-strategy-2018.
The Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI) is part of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and implements and enforces plant health policy in England, and in Wales on behalf of the Welsh Government. For more information on plant health controls, visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/plant-health-controls
Our Tree Warden, Doug Edworthy, has put together a very helpful short summary of the official advice – essential reading for any landowners who may have ash trees on their land, especially if these are near a boundary. Please read carefully – action now could save major problems and costs in the future.