Those fortunate to live in sight of the South Downs may feel that the Red Indians are in full swing at the moment as the skyline becomes peppered with small fires and the associated smoke (signals).
Don’t worry. No need for the Lone Ranger just yet. From October to the end of February is the ideal time to manage the internationally important chalk grassland which forms the back bone of the Downs. During the winter, while so much wildlife lies dormant, we have a window of opportunity to clear any ‘unwanted’ vegetation.
Now the word ‘unwanted’ is a contentious one. The vegetation we wish to see is the previously mentioned chalk grassland and its myriad of colours. This can be lost if shrubs and trees such as blackthorn, hawthorn and bramble for example go unchecked. Historically, the pressure of grazing animals would keep any ‘unwanted’ growth at bay. Times have changed and it is now down to person power (and the odd chainsaw) to remove this vegetation and allow the flowers and grasses to thrive. The areas of blackthorn and hawthorn are often referred to as scrub. And with all things in life, it is a question of balance. We would like some scrub, as it is important for all kinds of wildlife such as birds and butterflies for example. Whereas too much scrub means the wonderful flowers are overshadowed and lose out – which affects all manner of things further up the food chain.
We are fortunate, that being within the South Downs National Park, we can utilise the highly skilled workforce which is the South Downs Volunteer Ranger Service. Here are some of them after a great days work assisting us to restore our chalk grassland. Thanks so much to them and we hope to see them again soon.
As our vines are dormant at the moment, the vineyard team have done an amazing job clearing the scrub. The image below depicts the great lengths Health and Safety will go to make us less susceptible to harm. Even our pitch forks have protective covers on the prongs.
But we do find the marshmallow protectors rather tempting.
After a good day cutting and burning a warm bath is always welcoming. From reading Jonathan’s blog I may just sink into a bath of Beaujolais instead…