Nature Notebook – Rob Yorke
As published in The Times August 22 2015 – Part 1 of 2
The delights of planting your very own wood
I’m enthralled by how the wood I planted a few years ago near my house in the Black Mountains is unfolding. Growth spurts of randomly planted trees give it a wonderfully shambolic air: rowan saplings bend with bunches of berries, squat sessile oaks sprout from their bases, red dead-nettles provide pollen for bees, juicy purple bird cherries appear and goldfinch-attracting thistles compete with beech while hoverflies hang in the lee of the scots pine.
Earlier this year, a male tree pipit displayed overhead — filling the air with song, he alighted on a sweet chestnut. He delighted me but failed to attract a companion. Maybe fox tracks in the grass frighten pipits from this vestige of woodland.
Fragmented pockets of habitat do little for wildlife. Populations of marsh tits are declining because they cannot bring themselves to fly across open terrain in search of mates. I’ve sought to connect my wood to its surroundings by taking advantage of tree packs from Coed Cadw (woodlandtrust.org.uk) to plant a thick hedgerow interspersed with my own aspen and whitebeam for a pale, leaf-fluttering effect. Nature adapts fast. Making room for the new trees, I used a chainsaw to remove the overshadowing branches, and later discovered that a redstart had reared its young in a hollow bough I had left wedged against the fence.
Next: Part 2 of Nature Notebook Aug 2015 – Transylvania trek