This year we joined up once again with the Royal Forestry Society for a meeting we organised through committee member and Bathurst Estate stalwart, Keith Mills, based at Sapperton.
Around 40 attendees gathered at the newly-roofed Sapperton Village Hall, with the chance for people to meet up over coffee and biscuits. With the likelihood that a number of people would not be able to stay through the afternoon, we then took the chance to make a presentation to our host, The Earl Bathurst. CTWG and RFS had shared in obtaining a fine disease-resistant Elm which was presented, along with certificates commemorating the visit, outside the hall.
We then moved off, by car, to nearby Overley Wood. During a short walk, we made three stops, firstly to discuss Dothistroma Needle Blight, affecting the pines, now much more visible following an adjacent cleared and replanted section. We discussed at some length other problem areas, those of deer, squirrels and the damage they cause. Young trees must be protected by fencing (often impractical) or the guards, which may by some be deemed unsightly. It is a cost to a landowner/ business, but the loss of many trees would otherwise result. Squirrels on the other hand affect both young and mature trees and there is only one time-consuming way to deter them. Despite a longstanding and regular campaign against them, with substantial success, it still appears to be almost a losing battle to control their numbers and limit the severe damage which they cause.
A little farther on we encountered a once veteran beech, the top half of which recently fell. The estate has hundreds of veteran trees, many in excess of 250 years old and plans are in place to update their survey of these. More are likely to join the list as the area covered by the survey will be expanded. It is the intention to leave all these grand specimens to flourish as long as they are able. In this area a number of beech and oak, not veteran, have been cleared to leave space for those more mature ones remaining.
To conclude the morning visit, we carried on to a cleared area previously monopolised by Ash. Whilst there has been some slowing of speed of decline due to Ash dieback, trees here were badly affected. Discussion took place on possible replacement species. Keith anticipates that in the coming months, with the extra light / lack of competition, the area will see the appearance of a variety of plants and regeneration. Though one option may be not to restock at all for say 5 or 10 years; this is probably not a practical option for this estate. Another coup of conifers would be a possibility, or perhaps to extend the adjacent long established oak/hazel wood.
After our packed lunches, accompanied by a supply of tea/coffee and Ann’s cake, we were given a short presentation by Chris Tracey, of Butterfly Conservation. This encompassed an indication of their work generally, but also specifically that on this estate. An article based on her presentation can be accessed in the Spring 2019 edition of Tree & leaf magazine, to be elsewhere on this website. Overley Wood is one of the last sites in our region which is a suitable habitat for the Pearl-bordered Fritillary. The Estate and staff have made a conscious effort to encourage the retention of this now threatened species.
Those of us able to remain then drove to Overley Wood to visit the managed habitat. Most of us just happy to see butterflies around us in the open countryside would not appreciate the specific conditions required to retain/encourage this (or other) single species or the effort which can be put in by landowners to facilitate them. There was quite a supply of low bracken and we spotted a number of the violets which are a crucial plant element of their habitat. But on site it was evident how easy it would be for a few season’s growth of the wrong type to adversely impact the balance of ground conditions and the corridors which the butterfly uses. It is important that foreseeing this results in the preparation of another suitably adjacent site to which they may migrate.
Suitable habitat for the Pearl-bordered Fritillary