Brede High Woods

21st October 2009, Wednesday

The Woodland Trust has this autumn undertaken an ambitious programme of habitat creation, aimed at opening up areas for the development of nationally-rare lowland heath. This has been achieved by the clearance of secondary woodland, felling post-war conifer plantations and removing birch scrub both situated on land which had been agricultural until the construction of Powdermill Reservoir in 1930.

The boundary of this clearing (left) follows an outgrown hornbeam hedge, now tall trees, on an ancient wood-bank.
This provision for a whole range of heathland plants and invertebrates, as well as birds such as Nightjar, Woodlark and Tree Pipit, has also resulted in a radically different look to the woodland, where the sky and and glimpses of surrounding countryside have returned to alternate with the close cover of mature trees.

Historic features such as old lanes and wood-banks have emerged from smothering scrub and are now emphasised by being re-incorporated into the future forest landscape.

This old lane, which for hundreds of years connected the now-vanished Brede High and Austford Farms, reappeared just yesterday as contractors carefully felled birch scrub obscuring it.
Yesterday, at least 60 Crossbills were present, maybe as many as 100, and were easy to see as they flew across clearings or perched in isolated trees before proceeding to the tall pines where their chipping contact calls could be constantly heard.
The best places to see them are Holman Wood (TQ793203) and the newly-titled Sedlescombe Heath north of it. The relevant Bird Atlas tetrad (TQ72V) has no Crossbills recorded to date, but they must surely be added here (and in many other locations) once the new season starts on November 1st!

This bolete looks like Leccinum aurantiacum, a species associated with aspen.(Patrick Roper)