July 2015

Hollybank Woods, Emsworth, Hampshire.

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Below are a few historical entries to give a taste of the woodland year
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Spring Walk
Sunday 21st April 2013

Report by: Brian Fellows
(walk leader)

I led a most enjoyable 'Spring Walk' for the Friends of Hollybank Woods on this bright and sunny morning. It was attended by around 22 people which is probably a record for the spring walk. We all assembled at the top of Hollybank Lane at 10am where John Bond gave a short introduction to the woods and the conservation group.

We walked up the main path and stopped at the large area of clearance to the west of the track where Andy Brook explained the coppicing that the conservation group were undertaking.

We continued into the Holly Lodge clearing where the group enjoyed the warmth of the sunshine, but we were still waiting for butterflies to emerge.

From there we proceeded across the large jubilee area where we admired the new shoots of the wild native Lily of the Valley pushing up inside (and outside) the wooden fence protecting this rare plant.

We took the small path to the east which took us through an area of dense Holly bushes. I pointed out the dark marks on some of the leaves produced by the Holly Leaf Miner insect.

We made our way towards the northern Bluebell area where we managed to find a few flowers open, but most were not showing. It will be another couple of weeks before we get a good show. The same applied to the Bluebells in the southern area.

We stopped at my favourite (Lorton) seat on the eastern bridleway which was becoming unstable due to the digging of badgers beneath it. Andy Brook promised to try to stabilize this popular seat for the use of walkers. It is my favourite and perfect for watching White Admiral and Silver-washed Fritillary butterflies in the summer.

The first bird we heard near the southern entrance was the loud whistling call of a Nuthatch from neighbouring gardens.

Walking up the main path we heard both Chiffchaff and Blackcap singing; another 2 or 3 of these migrant birds were heard during the walk, but generally they were far less common than they usually are at this time of the year. Most of the resident woodland birds were heard and sometimes seen including Robin, Wren, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Green Woodpecker. A pair of Buzzards were constantly overhead in the sky giving their mewing calls.

All three common woodland butterflies were seen during the walk, Brimstone, Comma and Peacock.

Towards the end of the walk we saw a Bumblebee feeding on a Dandelion flower. This was probably a queen Bombus hypnorum feeding on nectar in preparation for nesting. This a distinctive ginger species with a darkened abdomen and a white tail.

From the archives:

High Summer in Hollybank Woods

July & August 2012

Report by Jane Brook

July and August this year have been variable weather wise. With swelteringly hot days and more than our fair share of overcast days and heavy rain. This has of course resulted in a very green wood even though we are now in high summer, and with September now upon us, and autumn on the horizon, the grasses and wild flowers have continued to flourish.

The high number of rainy days over the summer has resulted in our water table being extremely high, with springs in full spate and some paths and tracks very muddy.

Grass cutting and path clearing which normally drops back to once a month in August has been ongoing on a weekly basis. The previous summers of parched grass (and associated fire risk) have not been replicated this year.

One bonus of the wet summer and short dry spells of days with high temperatures is that we have been able to do three hay cuts this year in the central clearings and alongside the main tracks.

This hay is used to create valuable insect and reptile refuges throughout the woodland ahead of winter. The hay is stacked in rough loose heaps on a bed of dry bracken and sticks, with a thick top cover of dry bracken and bramble. We have been able to create many additional refuges this summer as well as replenishing existing refuges.

Sadly the weather took it's toll on the guided walks and events programme. The moth and bat evening along with the butterfly walk had to be canceled due to torrential rain. Although alternative dates were considered, the rain and muddy path conditions prevented these events from taking place. Hopefully, 2013 will see these two events back on track, with a dry warm summer. Maybe!

Summer in the woodland

A good year for Shield bugs, especially on sunny days when the sharp light revealed such intricate detailed markings.

White Admiral butterfly.

Tree Walk with Jonathon Huet in Hollybank Woods

Sunday 24th June 2012

Report by Jane Brook

The weather was kind to us this morning as at least the rain had stopped, although it was overcast and very wet underfoot, as we were treated to a very interesting tour of Hollybank Woods on the yearly tree walk.

Jonathon Huet delivered his usual mix of fascinating facts about trees, as he explained how they formed the mainstay of our ancestors’ livelihood, as well as the myth and magic of the folk lore that has grown up around woodland trees and plants. And we were even treated to some poetry.
Jonathon talked to us about coppicing.  This is a traditional way of woodland management (and can be seen in Hollybank Woods) whereby the trees particularly sweet chestnut and hazel are cut down to the ground on a rotational basis.  This allows the tree to regenerate by putting up many new shoots.  After a period of time, usually between 10 and 15 years these are harvested.  They were put to a variety of uses from firewood to fencing.   Coppice would have been rotated so that it could be harvested from different areas of the wood each year.  This creates a rich variety of habitats and enables wildlife to migrate from an area being coppiced to an adjacent area thus increasing the biodiversity of the woodland flora and fauna.

Jonathon also talked about veteran trees and how they are extremely important as they take a long time to reach this point in their lifecycle, but it is then that they are home to a very wide range of woodland wildlife.  Birch trees for example,  become veteran when they are about 100 years old but it takes an oak 300 years plus to become a veteran tree.

The facts were interspersed with folk lore and poetry which made the information come alive as it was explained in Johnathan’s own inimitable way.

Hollybank Woods Fayre and Tree Dressing Day
Saturday 26th May 2012

Report by Jane Brook


On a beautiful spring afternoon 250 people came along to the Hollybank Woods Fayre and Tree Dressing Day as part of the 2012 Salisbury International Arts Festival.


Local school children and groups had been involved in creating decorations for the Wishing Tree as part of the Salisbury International Arts Festival's Nature Of Art In Wessex. This is an innovative three year project using art to help people explore the nature on their doorstep. (Vist the website Nature Of Art In Wessex) The decorations of butterflies and birds, were a bright and colourful addition to one of the majestic oaks.

(PHOTOS: Chris Bond) Some of the children's artworks hung from trees.

It was a chance for people to walk around the Jubilee Plantation area and see the results of the Hollybank Woods project to create a new plantation in celebration of the Queen's Jubilee, and see the hundreds of trees planted in late February and early March this year by local school children.

Art produced by local school children was used to dress one of Hollybank Woods Oak trees to create a decorated Wishing Tree.

(PHOTO: Steve)

Hollybank Woods Tree Dressing Day was a part of the Salisbury International Arts Festival's Nature Of Art In Wessex. This is an innovative three year project using art to help people explore the nature on their doorstep.

(PHOTOS: Chris Bond) Wood turning demonstration.

We also had displays of basket weaving, wood turning and face painting. A local bee keeper had a display of honey and bee hives. There was a plant stall and the local WI provided delicious cakes and tea and coffee.

(PHOTO: Steve)

And local school children treated us to a wonderful dance display.

(PHOTO: Chris Bond)

(PHOTO: AB) Basket weaving display.

(PHOTO: Helen) Wood carving on a bench in Hollybank from last years event,
now on display.

We would like to thank all the volunteers who helped make the day a great success, for their help setting up the site and clearing up afterwards.

May 2012

An area of approx 1.6 acre (1% of the woodland) has been cleared of bramble, bracken and holly over the past 9 months, opening up mature oaks to restore it to an open area of wood pasture, meadow and coppice. Log piles for insects and small mammals have been created with timber from the clearing work, and chipped branches used for mulch. The area has been planted with hedges and trees to provide winter berries in the future for birds and mammals. The area will be designated the Jubilee Plantation, marking the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

Planting of over 400 new tree saplings was carried out from the end of February into March. School children from schools in Emsworth, Southbourne, Westbourne and Havant planted the new trees.

Each tree planted has been recorded with the name of the child planting it, the school and the date.

In decades to come we hope the children planting these trees will feel a connection with Hollybank Woods, and perhaps return with their children to show them the plantation they helped to create in 2012.

Please note that the main fire break/access route heading west from the central clearing is being moved to avoid the wet area just past the Holly Lodge clearing. The existing fire track at this point has always collected water during the winter months and by moving the track south by 5 meters the existing wet area will be allowed to revert to an open dew pond in coming years.

The final stage of the project is to plant a new hazel coppice, this will take place in October.

During November there will be a media event to mark the completion of the new plantation. More details to follow at the end of the summer.

Thursday, 12th April 2012. (entry added by AB)

Brian Lawrence and his camera have been out in search of the migrant Willow Warblers as they arrive from sub Saharan Africa for the spring nesting season in Hollybank Woods. Brian captured this superb image today of a Willow Warbler, along with a Blackcap.

Willow Warbler.
(PHOTO: Brian Lawrence)

(PHOTO: Brian Lawrence)

Bat activity is now increasing as spring takes a hold on Hollybank Woods. Although having decided to take my camera with me whilst taking Bo for his evening run at dusk - we only saw one! Typical. Identification to follow.

Bats are a regular sight at dusk in Hollybank Woods.

Friday, 6th April 2012. (entry added by AB)

A bright spring day in Hollybank Woods, and as we gear up for regular spring, summer and autumn blog entries, here are a couple of pictures taken by Brian Lawrence yesterday.

Bee fly in Hollybank Lodge clearing.
(PHOTO: Brian Lawrence)

(PHOTO: Brian Lawrence)

Friday, 2nd March 2012. (entry added by AB)

The first stage of planting 420 new tree saplings has been taking place this week (27th February - 2nd March 2012). School children from schools in Emsworth, Southbourne, Westbourne and Havant are planting the new trees. Over 300 trees have been planted this week. Further planting will take place in the next couple of weeks to complete the project.

Planting started last week with Glenwood School. Schools on site this week have been St. James' Emsworth, Emsworth Primary School, Westbourne Primary School, Southbourne Infants School and Sharps Copse School.

Well done to all the children who came with their schools to plant trees this week, and to all the staff, parents and grandparents who supported what has been a major achievement to bring so many children into the woodland over the last 5 days.

The weather was perfect, mild temperatures and sunny days made for a great time.

Each tree planted is recorded with the name of the child planting it, the school and the date. The new plantation will be added to a national record for future generations to see.

In decades to come we hope the children planting these trees will feel a connection with Hollybank Woods, and perhaps return with their children to show them the plantation they helped to create in 2012.

Tuesday, 14th February 2012. (entry added by AB)

With the New Year well underway, and a fair amount of rain in January, February signaled a cold winter snap over Hollybank Woods. Ice, snow and sub zero temperatures. As we reach the mid point of February the woodland has thawed out again, with paths back to mud and standing surface water.

The signs of spring are of course all around us now. Daffodils breaking through the leaf litter in the central woodland and the first tentative signs of bluebells. Oak and birch are in bud now and fresh growth on bramble and honeysuckle abound.

The Jubilee Plantation in the central woodland area is almost complete now. 2 years of planning, 5 months of hard work to clear scrub, holly, bramble and the like from an area of almost 1.6 acres. And now we are almost ready to start the planting of 400 plus trees by local school children at the end of this month. Further clearing and final site preparation will continue this week.

Selection of blog entries from 2011, 2010 and 2009 (and a few as far back as 2003 below).

Thursday, 24th November 2011. (entry added by Brian Fellows)

What a morning for a walk through this glorious woodland, leaves falling and a barely warming winter sun glinting through the trees. Leaves floated down from the trees like large flakes of snow, but brown, creating a thick carpet for me to scuff my shoes through. In return, I serenaded the trees with parts of TS Eliot's 'Four Quartets', which I committed to memory many years ago. I don't think they really appreciated it, but I liked it. And, I rested on my favourite seat (thanks Marie and John Lawton), chewed an apple and dreamed of White Admirals and Silver-washed Fritillaries fluttering around. A magic place!

I met Andy Brook taking photos of the new conservation work area in the western section of the woods. He told me they were creating a new open glade to encourage wild flowers, such as Bluebells. A mixed hedgerow of Hawthorn and Blackthorn would be planted around it with some Rowans. A great plan.

The woods were very quiet with only the mewing calls of a Buzzard and harsh squawks of Carrion Crows to disturb the peace (apart from my intoning). Not even a Robin sang which was surprising. However, just as I was leaving, a Song Thrush sang heartedly from the direction of Hollybank House, the second I have heard this week. What a voice!

I met John Bond in the Co-op yesterday, and he warned me that fungi had sprung up everywhere. True. There were loads of these large toadstools in clusters around the woodland, just like those we found growing on the Westbourne Open Space during last Monday's wayside clearance session. I am now 'fairly sure' (!) they are Clouded Argaric; they have broad beige coloured caps with darker slightly depressed centres and inrolled edges. The gills are decurrent (extending into the stem) and the stems thick with swollen bases. They had a strong smell, which I could not identify, though my book says it is turnip. While walking up the main path, a chap passed me carrying a large one, and I thought at the time, 'I hope he knows his fungi'. My book says they can cause digestive upset and are best avoided, so be warned!

Other fungi I noted down included Shaggy Parasol on the central path just south of the junction, a well chewed Fly Algaric on the western path and dozens of unidentified small white-grey fungi growing in the leaf litter in the far western end of the woodland.

Plants in flower included Herb-Robert by the Hollybank Lane entrance, Common Ragwort on the Holly Lodge clearing, Wood Sage on the western path showing pale greenish-yellow petals, Selfheal on the eastern bridleway.

I was puzzled by some clusters of tiny pinkish flowers on very hairy, sticky leaves, on the edge of the eastern bridleway. My best guess based on the tight clusters of flowers is Sticky Mouse-ear which I have not recorded before in Hollybank Woods. I would appreciate confirmation or otherwise. All the flowers we are seeing around the area at present reminded me of the bard's words: "What is the late November doing with the disturbance of the spring?"

Ralph Hollins solved the mystery plant flowering in Hollybank Woods yesterday. "I'm pretty sure it is Field Forgetmenot though what it is doing flowering at this time of year I don't know! Marjorie Blamey's illustration indicates that the flowers can be pink whereas Mouse-ear flowers are pure white. One thing I have noticed this year is that Common and Sticky Mouse-ear never seem to flower together - you get a period when you see lots of one and then a period with lots of the other, currently it is the turn of Common Mouse-ear!"

As Holly berries are so abundant this year, I picked a couple of springs for the wildlife display on my desk.

I always enjoy seeing the luxuriant growth of mosses down the path west of the conifer plantation. The Bank Haircap has new growth and capsules already finished.

11th hour, 11th day of the 11th Month. (entry added by AB)


Deep in the undergrowth Hollybank Woods hides a past, a secret place mostly hidden from view today. A tranquil place though, a place of solitude, a place where memories hang in the air and soak deep into the soul like the early morning mist on this November morning.

Between 26th May and 5th June 1940 the dramatic evacuation of the British Army and Allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk took place. Over 385,000 troops were brought back to Britain, 100,000 of these were from the French Army.

In 1944 Hollybank was the site of a D-Day camp, one of many that stretched along the southern coast of England. A camp where a part of the Free French Army and other Allied troops were billeted, ahead of the Allied invasion of Normandy, Operation Overlord, the invasion of occupied Europe on 6th June, 1944. Hollybank played it's part.

Among the brambles and autumn leaves are the foundations of nissen huts, and the concrete bases where anti aircraft guns were stationed along with numerous slit trenches linking air raid shelters and gun emplacements that still remain beneath the tranquil leaf litter, and among the majestic oaks and beech trees, of todays woodland. A secret past that is gradually being recycled and absorbed back into the woodland from which it was carved so many years ago.

The foundations of one such nissen hut were cleared by the Friends of Hollybank Woods some years back, and you will find this beside the main track. Walk up the wide ride from the top of Hollybank Lane under it's golden canopy and you will arrive at a cross roads with a bench.

Turn right and follow the twisting path. After a short time you will be aware of a clear area on your left, a space carpeted with beech and oak leaves. Stand for a while and you will become aware of the outline bricks that formed the base of this large nissen hut. Step forward as your mind fills in the gaps and leads you through the main entrance step, but pause to look down before entering.


A plaque at your feet commemorates those men and women who were stationed here in the wood ahead of D-Day.


Whilst your thoughts drift to those dark days of wartime Britain, the sacrifice of the First World War, the continued loss of life in war zones today, perhaps you will glimpse, out in the carpet of leaves a small wooden cross with a poppy on it. A single, small, but bold statement, they are not forgotten.


Hollybank Woods supplied timber for trench supports used in the fields of Flanders during the Great War, the war that was supposed to end all wars, and during the Second World War it gave Allied troops a safe place to await the invasion of Europe.

Today the families of servicemen and women who live in Emsworth and Westbourne walk these woods, their loved ones stationed on Thorney, Portsmouth or serving today in a foreign field or at sea. They run their dogs here, walk with their families, and Hollybank Woods listens to their fears which today are as frightening as at any time in it's past.

Hollybank Woods gently covers over the signs of 1944 with each passing year. Not to hide it from view or pretend it never happened, but to hold it tightly, securely, protecting the memories.

And when rain falls tonight through the branches of ancient Yew trees, when the morning dew collects on the tips of ever green needles, it will be the tears of loss for past generations and ours too today, that gently filter down to fall among the autumn leaves carpeting Hollybank's soil tomorrow morning.

As the sun sinks below the horizon this afternoon, and the golden glow of November light fades below the steel grey sky which hangs low above Hollybank, at the going down of the sun and in the morning Hollybank Woods will still remember them all, for eternity.

Saturday 22nd October 2011(entry added by Tim Crook)

It was a good turnout for a fungal foray on a lovely sunny autumn day, and an excellent atmosphere of interest and enthusiasm from those assembled. Around 31 members and visitors of all ages had arrived by 10am. Our introductory Health and Safety and introductory fungi talks were made more interesting, challenged as they were by horses, dog walkers and cars – we were all looking around wondering what would assail us next!

I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive for the foray as we had a recent dry spell and I knew that fungi were currently scarce in most part of Hampshire. Fungi do appear to arrive when they choose, which can inconveniently fall either side of a planned foray – nature always has the final say.

From the entrance to the woods we made our way to the first path on our right where I knew there to be a reliable selection of Hypholoma fasiculare (sulphur tuft), and what appeared to be both Laccaria (deceivers) amethystina and Lacaria laccata reaching the end of their fruiting days. I wanted as many eyes as possible given the expected low numbers of fungi so I kept the group together as one rather than split it into two (which Rod had favoured). The path we went up was very narrow – I have to say you would not be able to find a more classic ‘I told you so’ expression than the one on Rod’s face as around half the group struggled to get within seeing and hearing range of me.

Frome these initial finds we made our way up the path and were fortunate (although not sure this is truly the appropriate word) enough to find what turned out be the Alba (rare white) variety of Amanita Phalloides, the notorious Death Cap. The assembled were duly regaled with information about the deadly toxins contained – 11 different sets of amatoxins and phallotoxins, an amazing evolution. Even more amazing that rabbits have evolved to be able to eat them with impunity when one death cap can kill 7 people.

Tim identifying a find.

Eyes gently glazing over the party continued their way up the path, encountering mycena, resupinates, polypores, puffball (very past their prime), peziza, leccinum and earthball on our way. As we reached the end of the path I realised half the party appeared to have disappeared – I later found out that this was to do with the happy coincidence of an excellent crop of sweet chestnuts which graced the side of the path.

At the top of the pine plantation we were fortunate to find the not poisonous Amanita citrina (the False death cap – but don’t try eating it because it can be confused with deadly Amanitas) with its notable smell of raw potatoes. This area turned out to be reasonable for fungi as we were able to find a few more genus examples – Coprinus (ink cap) with its margins deliquescing into black ink, Marasmius, and the deadly and historically interesting Paxillus involutus (Brown roll rim).

False death cap
– but don’t try eating it because it can be confused with deadly Amanitas.

From there we made our way back on a different route, encountering a very pretty stagshorn example (likely Calocera viscosa), thanks to the very sharp eyes of a member of the party, and finally bolete growing next to Holly.

Finishing off we discussed recommended books, literature and organisations (like the Hampshire Fungus Recording Group who in the previous foray back in August identified 89 different species even though there was not that much on display, more than 40 of which were completely new to Hollybank records, and on whose forays members of the public are welcome too).

All in all it turned out to be an enjoyable fun foray, in spite of the general paucity of fungi on the day.

Monday 25th July 2011 (entry added by Jane Brook)

If you have walked through the woods over the past few months, you may have come across Rod, Andy and John who have been busy cutting back main fire breaks and the brambles in the clearing in the Hollybank Lodge area of Hollybank Woods. This area has been periodically cut back throughout the early part of this year in order to encourage the grasses and flowers. It was hoped that this in turn would encourage a wider variety of butterflies, especially some of the butterflies that prefer a more open habitat.

Well, after the very cold winter, followed by a record lack of rainfall over the spring months, mid June and summer finally arrived along with the rain. And now in late July the rain hasn’t stopped for more than a day or so since, leaving the woods rather damp underfoot and not very welcoming for butterflies.

The recent poor weather has meant that I have had to wait until today and the last week of July, which has been much sunnier and warmer than of late, to see my first sighting of a White Admiral this year. There were several butterflies around the woods mostly nectaring on either the bramble flowers – most of which are almost over, or on the buddleia which is Hollybank Lodge clearing. They were clearly enjoying the sunshine and I saw Large Skippers, Peacocks, Speckled Woods, Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers, Silver Washed Fritillaries, several Large and Small Whites, Holly Blues, Commas and Red Admirals and one Ringlet.

It’s interesting that some of these butterflies have special scent scales which are visible on the males. The male the Silver Washed Fritillary, Large Skipper and Gatekeeper have dark bands of these scales visible on their wings which are not present in the female. It is one way of telling the sexes apart. In the males pheromones that are produced from these scales entice the females into mating and the males will often perform an amazing courtship display circling around the female.

I am not sure what these butterflies will find to sustain them once the bramble flowers are over which may be quite soon. The bramble has flowered early this year along with a lot of plants and so there generally seems to be a lack of nectar plants. This may be something we need to address, perhaps by bringing in seeds or plants of some other butterfly nectar plants especially late flowering species, so that the butterflies that are flying at the end of the summer still have something to feed on.

Ringlet butterfly.

This Ringlet was found on the eastern edge of the Hollybank Lodge clearing in the uncut patch of flowers and bracken. Ringlets are on the wing from late June to the end of August and like to feed on bramble. The caterpillars eat grasses and overwinter, continuing to feed if the weather is mild and finally pupating in May/June.

Friday 10th June 2011 (entry added by Jane Brook)

Saturday 21st May - Hollybank Woods Open Day and Arts Festival. Salisbury International Arts Festival comes to Emsworth.

The Hollybank Woods Open Day and Arts Festival on Saturday 21 May was a huge success. From 2pm – 5.30pm over 300 people visited the event held in the main Hollybank clearing.

Local musicians, storytelling, face painting, dancers, guided walks, arts banners, sculptures and the opening of the newly renovated site of D-Day Nissen huts in the woods provided a wide range of entertainment and activities for those attending this free event staged by The Friends of Hollybank Woods in association with the Salisbury International Arts Festival.

The day was hot and dry, the blue sky and sun created the most perfect woodland festival atmosphere.

Earlier this Spring Emsworth residents had been offered the chance to take part in Salisbury International Arts Festival as part of the Nature of Art In Wessex project.

Professional artist Nicola Henshaw has been working with a range of local groups to create beautiful fabric prints which were put together to create lengths of banners.

Nicola says ‘It was a huge success! I worked with Mums and toddlers from the Orchard Children's Centre (Sure Start scheme) - everyone had a great time and the banners produced were magnificent! I had my work cut out, stitching all the fabric together to make bunting for the woodland arts day.’

Other groups involved in this exciting arts and nature project included Glenwood School, Westbourne School, the U3A, local Brownies and Scouts. The Friends of Hollybank Woods have been leading guided walks in the woods for each of the groups which have proved really popular.

John Bond the Chair of the Friends of Hollybank Woods:‘It was very rewarding to see the enthusiasm and imagination of all the groups when they visited the woods. For some it was their first visit but having been introduced to the woods they are keen to come again’.

The prints were used to transform Hollybank Woods creating a magical art trail during the Open day.

Nicola Henshaw also used the art work made the community to inspire some woodcarvings which The Friends of Hollybank Woods have used to create a more permanent trail around the woods which can be seen throughout the seasons.

Nature Of Art In Wessex is an innovative three year project using art to help more people explore the nature on their doorstep. Funding to work with 6 communities until 2012 has been awarded by Natural England as part of its Access to Nature programme funded from the Big Lottery Fund’s Changing Spaces programme.

Saturday 12th February 2011 (entry added by Jane Brook)

With the snow we had in December it feels like it has been a very long, hard winter. However, now in mid-February there are definite signs of spring. In Hollybank Woods green shoots are appearing and bird song is increasing daily.

A very familiar harbinger of spring, the hazel catkins have been visible for a few weeks now. These catkins are the male flowers and they produce clouds of yellow pollen. This pollen has to reach the female flowers which look like tiny red flowers and as you can see from the picture are very small in comparison to the male catkins. It is these female flowers that develop into the hazelnuts.

Hazel catkins and female flower.

Many insects hibernate deep in ivy or other vegetation or under bark. They will emerge on warmer, sunny days. One of the largest and most spectacular of the early insects is the brimstone butterfly. This can often be seen on warm days in early spring. It will have hibernated as a butterfly and is well camouflaged amongst the ivy leaves where it will stay immobile through the depths of winter. The male butterflies which are deeper yellow than the females usually emerge first.

A lot of flowers in woodland flower early before the full leaf canopy covers over and blocks the light to the woodland floor. In the coming weeks primroses, cowlips, wood anenomes and bluebells should all be seen in the woods.

If you go and have a look at the site of the D-Day encampment, you will notice that there has been some work on replacing the floor. This has been done to stop the site becoming overgrown.

Selection of blog entries from 2010 and 2009 below.

Thursday 26th July 2010 (entry added by Jane Brook @ 22.52)

The weather was very hot and humid today and the woods seemed to be as exhausted as we felt walking in the early afternoon heat. There were a few butterflies, we saw three peacocks on the buddleia bush in the Hollybank clearing along with the ubiquitous gatekeepers and there are still a few silver washed fritillaries along with the occasional white admiral, but we saw far fewer butterflies than on the butterfly walk only 10 days ago.

There was not much else to be seen or even heard. We disturbed a wren which flew up and delivered a very loud burst of song as if relieved that we did not harm it but apart from that it seemed as if the whole wood was having a quiet siesta.

Just as we reached the car on the back road, there was a movement in the short grass on the path in front of us and we found a small mouse crouched presumably trying to hide until we had gone. Much to our relief and with a little encouragement, he or she rushed off into the undergrowth at the side of the path but not before Andy had taken this picture!

Mouse peering through the grass

Thursday 22nd July 2010 (entry added by Jane Brook @ 22.27)

Hollybank Woods Butterfly Walk led by Mike Bridger 18th July 2010

It was a good turn out this morning both in terms of people and of butterflies for this year's butterfly walk, expertly led by Mike Bridger from Chichester Natural History Society.

The weather was comfortably warm. Although overcast at first the sun came out during the meander around the woods.

The first stop on the right hand side just beyond the gate at the top of the track up from Hollybank Lane gave us good views of Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns, a Comma, a Red Admiral, a couple of Silver Washed Fritillaries and several white butterflies.

On the opposite side of the path a small almost insignificant butterfly had landed on the ground and was feeding on a damp patch. We all crowded around as Mike explained that it was probably getting moisture and salts possibly from dog or horse urine. He explained that it is a butterfly not often seen as it is usually found up in the upper most branches of oak trees as the caterpillar of this species, the Purple Hairstreak, feeds on oak leaves. Apparently in the right light the wings have a beautiful purple sheen. This one kept it?s wings firmly together until it decided to fly up again into the canopy.

We walked a little further along the track and into one of the clearings that had been cut during a recent winter workparty. Down at ground level sitting on a leaf we found another quite small butterfly. At first it was thought to be the female of the Common Blue. The female of this species is very similar to a number of butterflies with her brown upper wings and spotted underwings, however, when the photographs of both the upper and under wing surfaces were checked, a positive identification of a Brown Argus was made. The pattern of the spots in particular are very distinctive and can be used to confirm an identification. This species feeds on common rock rose and also common storksbill, neither of which have so far been found within the woods which remains a bit of a mystery!

Brown argus butterfly now on the wing in Hollybank Woods on July 18th 2010

In addition to this exciting find a Brimstone and some more Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns were also seen in this clearing along with another couple of Silver Washed Fritillaries. Further along the path, as we entered the woodland again, a Peacock was seen.

Walking on through the woods to the lodge clearing, there were several White Admirals particularly in the area around the bench at the crossroads and within the clearing there was a Holly Blue. Mike explained that this was unusual at this time of the year as the butterfly is usually between broods. It is on the wing in April/May when it lays eggs on holly the later brood on the wing in August lays its eggs on ivy. It is the only British butterfly whose main foodplant alternates between its two broods.

Also seen in this vicinity was a Small Copper which again was on the ground. It was by the bramble patch, probably taking advantage of the warmth. Principle sightings list below.

Meadow Brown
Silver Washed Fritillaries
Small White
Large White
Common Blue
Brown Argus
Small Skipper
Red Admiral
Holly Blue
White Admiral
Small Copper

Monday 8th June 2010 (entry added by AB @ 23.52)

A late update on a news from April / May which will be of interest to followers of the rarer insect sightings in Hollybank Woods.

Brian Fellows had a good sighting of a female Ctenophora flaveolata, one of Hollybank Woods spectacular dead-wood breeding craneflies, with identification confirmed by Dr Chris Palmer (Museums Collections Manager, Culture, Communities & Rural Affairs, at Hampshire County Council Museums & Archives Service). Generally associated with old, large beech within ancient forest such as New Forest, Windsor, Savernake. Chris also confirmed Ctenophora flaveolata is generally regarded as a vulnerable RDB2 (Red Data Book) species.

The insect was located in the Early Purple Orchid area on Longcopse Hill in Hollybank Woods on 28th April 2010 at Grid Ref: SU 7528 0823.

Whilst not a common recording in Hollybank Woods, they have been found in the central northern woodland as well as on Longcopse. Yew trees are also associated with this insect in terms of habitat corridors and whilst no recent recordings in Southleigh Forest on the opposite side of Emsworth Common Road, this is the 5th recording in Hollybank Woods during the last 2 years.

Well done to Brian for his follow up on this most recent sighting with Dr. Chris Palmer which resulted in positive id on this insect. Photo's to follow in the next couple of days.

Monday 17th May 2010 (entry added by Lynne Wadey @ 22.02)

The annual Sunday Tree Walk led by Jonathon Huet was once again well attended yesterday. The weather was kind to us and the group of about 15 people enjoyed hearing about the history of our ancient woodland.

Jonathon Huet. (PHOTO: AB)

A magical trip around the woods with Jonathon on Sunday as he beguiled us with history, stories and poetry in his inimitable style.

Jonathon identified many of the trees and explained some of the distinguishing features of each. He also mentioned what the trees have been used for in the past and how the same type of tree may differ from area to area. Trees identified were Alder, Beech, Cherry, Birch, Oak, Sweet Chestnut, Alder Buckthorn, Woodland Willow, Sycamore, Hazel, Ash and Yew.

Jonathon told us stories about some of the trees and recited excerpts from Kipling?s poems which added a magical touch to the morning. We also paid a visit to the conifer section of the woods where the Western Red Cedar , Scots Pine and Lawson Cypress were pointed out.

Also, during the walk, Jonathon had talked about some of the plants and flowers of the woodland and their many uses as herbal remedies. We visited the Douglas Fir near the top end of the woods and the walk ended in the Holly Lodge glade where Jonathon showed us an assortment of items such as spoons and storage pots which he had made from wood. On the walk back to the entrance several people mentioned to me that they had enjoyed the walk and had learned a lot from Jonathon.

Tuesday 11th May 2010 (entry added by Brian Fellows @ 21.19)

Early Purple Orchids. On my last visit to Longcopse Hill on April 29 there were relatively few orchids in flower and I counted just 231. They were far much numerous today and I counted 617 flowering spikes. There are a few more flowers still to come, but I think that is about as many as we shall get this year.

Today's count is slightly down on the past two years, but maintains the series of good counts since 2008 as shown in the following chart.

Hollybank Woods Longcopse Hill count 2000 - 2010

Also, in the orchid area I found Bugle and what I think was Wavy Bitter-cress (with 4 stamens). Tormentil was flowering in the usual place on the north track into the Birch scrub at the top of Longcopse Hill. I noticed a Speckled Yellow Moth fluttering around too, my first of the year. It settled briefly on a bush allowing me to get a quick photo.

Tuesday 4th May 2010 (entry added by AB @ 22.08)

Bees are busy throughout the woodland. Note pollen sac on the bees right rear leg. (PHOTO: AB)

Chris Bain our Forestry Officer has been hard at work today cutting back a large section of the overgrown bramble area in the main Hollybank Lodge clearing. This area has encroached on the clearing itself over the last 5 years to the point where it was no longer possible for fire services to drop off water bunds in the event of a major fire and to turn fire fighting vehicles after replenishing onboard water tanks. Along with the on going widening of fire breaks and access tracks, this essential work is a preventative measure incase of summer fires in the central woodland.

As we are a conservation site, the work is carried out using hand held power cutters rather than flailing chains on a tractor. Our primary concern is to protect the wildlife of the woodland during such work.

The large area cleared today presented a number of problems due to the large numbers of slow worms, grass snakes and voles. Conservation management and skilled forestry clearing are the key factors that dictate our approach. Small areas are cut down to 400 - 500mm so allowing reptiles and small mammals time to evacuate before the area is recut after a short break at ground level. A hands on search is carried out ahead of the ground level cutting and any slow worms, small mammals etc that refuse to move on are carefully relocated to habitat close by.

This naturally takes time, and an area that would be cleared in a matter of hours using conventional mechanical clearing can take 9 or 10 hours. The approach we take is of course both labour intensive and time consuming, but the disturbance to both habitat and the reptiles/mammals is minimised.

Work will continue tomorrow (Wednesday) on fire track widening in the central western woodland.

Rod Smith our Geocache Warden has had his litter collecting duties tested to the limits over the bank holiday weekend, and given that this is voluntary we really do appreciate his uphill struggle. I think we have today just about seen it all as they say! This morning Rod found two large plastic sacks dumped at the back gates on the Emsworth Common Road, which when he set about preparing to move them to the pull in for a council refuse collection, was stunned to find that they contained a large number of whole dead chickens! Rod reports that the smell indicated they were not fresh this morning! Quite why, or how, two very large sacks of dead chickens ended up being dumped on Hollybank Woods doorstep we are at a loss to make sense of.

Plenty of new blossom on the Cherry trees in the woodland after the rain at the weekend, and the Bluebells look as though they are about to make a concerted effort to put on a fine display over the coming week after a patchy start due to the dry weather of late.

Bumper display by the Bumble bee population in Hollybank Woods, Bees busy in all directions. As in the picture at the start of this entry, take a moment when you see a Bumble bee on a flower to observe the pollen sac. When a bee visits a flower, its body becomes dusted with pollen. The hind legs are adapted to comb the pollen off the body, compact it and store it as pollen sacs. These are pushed into cells in the nest or hive when the bee returns.

Thursday 29th April 2010 (entry added by Brian Fellows @ 23.30)

Early Purple Orchids
I did my annual Early Purple Orchid count. I counted only 231, which is the lowest number since I started counting in Year 2000 and their quality generally was not good. I will try to do another count next week when more should be out, though my impression is that this is not a good orchid year.

Other plants
Many of the spring flowers that were out on my last visit to the orchid area on April 17 were past their best, including Wood Anemone, Lesser Celandine, Dog's Mercury, Primrose, Common Dog-violet and Wood Sorrel.

However, there was still plenty to see and new plants since last time included Wood Speedwell, Greater Stitchwort, Herb-Robert and lots of Wood Sedge. I also noticed several patches of the delicate fern like leaves of Pignut, but no flowers as yet.

The Bluebells in the southern part of Hollybank Woods were showing well, but it was not a great display.

Robin in Hollybank. (PHOTO: Lynne Wadey)

Sunday 18th April 2010 (entry added by Brian Fellows @ 21.00)

Fifteen people, a baby and two dogs (with their owners!), attended my annual 'Bird Song and Spring Flowers' walk in the woods from 10am to 12 noon. They included some who knew the woods well and others for whom this was their first visit. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, bright spring sunshine with a slight chill in the air, and the woods were looking at their best. I provided check lists of the birds that might be encountered together with a brief description of their songs/calls. Most of the common woodland birds were heard during the walk, including lots of Blackcaps and a few Chiffchaffs.

The highlight of the morning for me, at least, was my first Willow Warbler of the year, singing from the woodland to the west of the main path, close to the northern entrance.

Spring flowers were fairly scarce, though everyone enjoyed seeing the Bluebells which were just opening up and there were some nice patches of Wood Anemones. I decided not to visit the orchid area on Longcopse Hill, partly due to time constraints and to the fact that the orchids are not yet flowering. I think everyone enjoyed the walk and many newcomers expressed the wish to come back again.

Saturday 17th April 2010 (entry added by Brian Fellows @ 22.30)

My second recce for the group walk tomorrow was mainly to have a look at the orchid area on Longcopse Hill where I found a wonderful display of spring flowers. This area is quite magical at this time of the year, carpetted with white flowers of Wood Anemone and blue of Common Dog-violet, interspersed Lesser Celandine, Dog's Mercury and Barren Strawberry.

Wood anemone. (PHOTO: AB)

The Primroses were astonishing and I counted 222 flowering plants, which is more than I have ever seen before in this area and a large increase on the 2009 total of 153.

As I expected, the Early Purple Orchids were not yet in flower, though I did see quite a few rosettes with buds standing erect. I suspect they will be at their best in about two weeks time. We have had bumper crops of orchids in the last two years and it will be interesting to see what comes up this year.

I did not see any Bluebells in flower in the orchid area, though more were out in the southern area of the main woods than I saw yesterday.

Wood Sorrel was also flowering well the grassy area on the north side of the stream, where I have found it in previous years.

Thursday 15th April 2010 (entry added by Brian Fellows @ 19.00)

I did a recce for Sunday's 'Bird Song and Flowers' walk that I will be leading for the Friends of Hollybank Woods on Sunday. The weather was fine and sunny and largely sheltered from the chilly northerly wind. I did a full circuit of the western section plus a bit of the eastern section. I will do a recce of the eastern section and Longcopse Hill on another occasion.

There was certainly plenty of bird song in the woodland this morning with Robins in particularly good voice., Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were also prominent; I counted 11 Blackcaps and 6 Chiffchaffs during the walk. There was no sound of Willow Warbler though there is some suitable habitat in the western section with lots of Birch scrub growing.

Other birds heard during the walk were Wren, Nuthatch, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Woodpigeon, Stock Dove, Jay, Carrion Crow and Pheasant. I did not hear or see any Buzzards.

There were very little in the way of spring flowers. I had a look at the Bluebells in the south eastern section. There were a few in flower, but they, in common with most other flowers this spring, are very late. The Wild Cherry tree near the Bluebells has some blossom on it, but not as much as expected.

There were not as many butterflies on the wing in Hollybank Woods as might be expected on a warm sunny morning like this. However, I did see my first Green-veined White of the year on the Holly Lodge clearing, plus a few Peacock, Comma and Brimstone. One butterfly that flew off before I could get a good at it might have been a Small Tortoiseshell.

As I was walking round the western circular path in Hollybank Woods, a green beetle with cream spots on its wings flew down onto the path in front of me. I took a few photos and left it to its own devices. I was delighted and somewhat surprised to be able to identify fairly easily it from Michael Chinery's 'Guide to Insects' as a Green Tiger Beetle. Beetles are usually far more difficult to identify.

According to the book, it lives mainly on heathland, sand dunes and other sandy places. There was no sand where I saw it though the habitat is open and slightly heathy.

Tiger beetles are sun-loving insects with huge eyes and jaws. They fly well with a buzzing sound, though I did not hear this one. They hunt ants and other prey on the ground and live in open habitats. They are among the fastest runner in the insect world, though this one did not move at all as I inspected it with my binoculars and took some photos. About a dozen species live in Europe.

Sunday 11th April 2010 (entry added by AB @ 23.05)

A flush of butterflies on the wing this week in Hollybank Woods, with peacock, brimstone, speckled wood and comma throughout the woodland. Orange tip butterflies are also now hatching out and should be a more common sight this coming week.

Ladybirds too seem to have taken the opportunity of warmer days to bask on wood piles, and bumble bees are busy searching for suitable nest sites among the leaf litter and old tree stumps.

Primroses, celandines and wood anemone are all puting on a fine spring show. The carpets of bluebells will soon be in flower, and this year looks to be one of the best for some time.

Daffodil update.
Daffodils continue to flower in the central woodland, though as reported a few weeks ago, the numbers coming up blind/non-flowering have increased again this year. We are still unsure if this is due to overcrowding or not. An off site trial has resulted in blind/foliage only for the past three years. This does not seem to be caused by the larvae of the narcissus fly as in both the control trial plants, and those in the woodland, very few that have resulted in blind plants actually produced flower buds.

It has to be noted though that the flowering (mother) bulbs multiply every year, producing much smaller, younger bulbs that will not be large enough to flower in the first few years. The mother bulbs die off naturally, making way for the younger bulbs. We may be experiencing a higher than expected rate of attrition among mother bulbs combined with the current overcrowding among younger non flowering bulbs. The woodland bulbs will be compared to the sibling off site bulb trial for a further two years. We can then review data for the initial five year period of this investigation. Findings will be online during mid 2012.

Our spring Hedgehog release program is almost complete again, with just two males awaiting release in the next ten days when they reach a suitable weight having now woken up from their hibernation in a nestbox housed in a frost free greenhouse during the winter months. These hedgehogs were all autumn juvenile hedgehogs, hedgehogs that were old enough to have left their mothers but born too late in the year to survive hibernation.

Each year many autumn juvenile hedgehogs are handed into wildlife hospitals after they are found out in daytime, generally dehydrated and in need of food which is likely to be scarce as autumn moves into winter. Once checked over by a vet and held at the hospital for a week or two, these juvenile hedgehogs are moved out to large conservation sites such as Hollybank Woods for over wintering and release.

Hollybank Woods have a number of dedicated over wintering arrangements with local people who are given two hedgehogs and a nestbox for the winter. The hedgehogs are kept in dry frost free greenhouses between late November and March, provided with a constant supply of fresh water and food, and allowed to hibernate (or not as is the case for some) in a secure environment. The hedgehogs' weights are taken each month to monitor their condition, and for those that have hibernated a crash diet of high energy food is provided to ready them for spring release.

The total combined number to date of late October 2009 releases, and over wintered hogs released this spring, is 16. With the final 2 from over wintering due to be released in the next 5 days when their weight has stabilised.

This is double the number in the same period 2008/2009 to reflect the serious decline in hedgehog populations both in the Hollybank Woods area and nationally.

More about that in a future blog entry as it is one of the most serious issues facing conservation in 25 years. The impact of which has a knock on effect across woodland biodiversity, both here in Hollybank Woods and nationally. Sadly an air of miss information has built speculation that badgers and foxes are part of the cause, this could not be further from the truth.

Hedgehogs have a very large range, and in order to ensure a wide distribution our hedgehogs are released both in Hollybank Woods and in gardens that border the woodland and surrounding roads.

So, if this spring you happen across a hedgehog on your patio at dusk going about its business close to Hollybank Woods, it may be one of Hollybank's spring releases making its way in the world. (Some may still have a small coloured patch of dye on their prickles, be it blue, red, yellow, orange, purple, green or such but do not be alarmed as the dye will wash or have worn off within a month. For a short time a few over winter ''hospital colour dye tags'' will still be visible on a few hogs.) Also by now almost all of the hedgehogs that hibernated in the wild last winter are now out and about searching for food and mates too.

And should you decide to leave a little food out at night for your visitor, please remember, do not put out milk or bread as this will cause the hedgehog a stomach upset. Hedgehogs love crushed peanuts (unsalted), raisins and small quanitities of chopped up apple. Your blog editor has a resident garden hedgehog who has developed a taste over the years for crushed up peanuts with a little honey mixed in! Still not sure the saturated sugar in honey is actually good for the hog, but she loves it as a treat. Only once every couple of weeks, we do not want her to forget about all the slugs she happily hoovers up in our vegetable patch during the year!

One last thing, a bowl of fresh water each night throughout the year is a life saver for all wild animals, both large and small. Dehydration kills more small animals than lack of food, and that is not just in summer months.

Saturday 3rd April 2010 (entry added by AB @ 17.00)

A mostly wet and windy week in Hollybank Woods, with a couple of days when the sun managed to remind us that spring is, actually, here!

Sunday 28th March
Last Sunday saw a good crowd of hardy adventurers gather for the Geocache walk. Spring sun and mild weather. Rod Smith, Hollybank's Geocache Warden, gave a talk on Geocache origins and then handed out information on our first cache to find. Supported by fellow experienced Geocachers Rod divided us up into groups and we set off at staggered intervals with GPS units to locate the first hidden cache! Not as as easy as it seemed. The GPS device leads you to the area of the hidden cache, but then it is down to observation and getting to grips with the clues provided. After some searching all the groups located the hidden cache in a tree.

Searching for the first cache. (fisheye PHOTO: Chris Bond)

Inspired by this the groups headed off with fresh clue sheets to locate further caches. A great experience for all, and plenty of opportunity to ask questions and learn about geocaching. Many thanks to Rod Smith and his team, and a great start to our 2010 diary of guided walks in the wood.

Check out our dedicated information page. Menu link above, or click here for Geocaching.

Wednesday 24th March 2010 (entry added by Brian Fellows @ 21.04)

I popped into the woods, mainly to see if there was any sign of migrant birds. I heard two Chiffchaff singing, which are almost certainly migrants, one on the Holly Lodge clearing and one along the eastern bridleway. I listened for about hour, but that was all. No Blackcaps as yet. Plenty of Brimstones were flying, but never resting. Dave Savage went again to have a look for the Alpine Squill in the orchid area on Longcopse Hill and found them flowering well. Dave thinks they are quite different to the Squill we saw in the garden in Hollybank Lane. They are more delicate and there are dark lines on the back of their leaves, which the garden variety did not have.

Wednesday 17th March 2010 (entry added by Brian Fellows @ 20.59)

I met Dave Savage at 10am at the top of Hollybank Lane, mainly to have a look at the Alpine Squill on Longcopse Hill. We really needed go no further than the garden of No 57 Hollybank Lane, where there was a fine display of flowering Squills on the embankment in front of the house, but we were not sure if these were the same plants as those in the woods, but they could be a possible source.

Anyway, we proceeded through the woods to the orchid area on Longcopse Hill, where we found a little cluster of 4 plants of Alpine Squill in bud, but not in flower. They are located at the far end of the orchid area in front of a fallen tree which is covered with King Alfred's Cakes. Grid Ref: SU 7528 0823.

Alpine Squill is a perennial and a member of the Lily family (Liliaceae). It is not native to Britain and grows in scrubland, fields, meadows and grassland in the Mediterranean region. Alpine Squill can be found in mountains, often right up to the snow line, and flowers from March until May. Blamey, Fitter and Fitter (p.308) indicates it is well established in Abbey Wood, SE London.

Ralph Hollins thinks the plants on Longcopse Hill, while apparently growing wild, may have been deliberately planted. As they are remote from human habitation, they are most unlikely to have arrived at garden throw-outs.

Other observations.
We were surprised to find virtually nothing in flower in the orchid area which is normally rich in flowers at this time of the year; no Celandines, no Wood Anemones and only a few Primroses, plus the usual Dog's Mercury. We found a some leaves of Early Purple Orchids (some spotted and some plain) and wondered how they would fare this year after last year's bumper crop. We also found some Butcher's-broom flowering on the way to the orchid area.

It was also very quiet on the bird front. We heard plenty of Robin, Dunnock and Tits, plus a few Song Thrushes. We heard Nuthatch calling and saw a Buzzard rise from the ground.

Monday 14th March 2010 (entry added by AB @ 21.23)

February brought it's fair share of heavy rain to the woodland, but as March set in we returned to the heavy frosts and crisp days once again. Hollybank is now finally starting to dry out a bit again.

The daffodil are about to flower in the central woodland clearings, though there are a very high number coming up blind - more so than in previous years possibly. We will be looking at this situation more carefully over the next few years to monitor possible reasons for the dwindling numbers of daffodil flowers.

Bluebells look as if they will be putting on a strong show this year again, generally the south eastern area produces the first flush of bluebells, and this should be in about three to four weeks time, followed within a few days by the northern bluebell areas breaking into a vigorous carpet of blue haze.

Daffodils breaking through the leaf litter. (PHOTO: AB)

Back at the end of February, and the daffodils are starting to appear. (PHOTO: AB)

Monday 1st February 2010 (entry added by AB @ 20.45)

February has arrived with a hard frost overnight and a sprinkiling of snow on the ground this morning. Despite a slight rise in temperature during the day frost pockets were still obvious late afternoon. More activity now from the bird population, and first signs of nest box inspections by blue tits and robins. Catkins abound around the woodland and new buds are showing on most of the trees. Spring is on the horizon!

Chris has been hard at work in the plantation area, and we are already starting to consider establishing sites for new log piles during the summer months. These provide shelter during winter months to insects, invertebrates and small mammals and play a vital role in the biodiversity with in a woodland.

With rain forecast this week Hollybank's moss and ferns should enjoy a spell of milder weather to put on fresh growth. They provide a welcome bright green flush to the woodland all year round, and especially in winter months. Green being the colour that we perceive as the sharpest in the colour spectrum, brings with it a defined perspective when walking through a woodland. And with the rain comes the added benefit of tiny water droplets in the air that act as mini magnifying glasses to intensify the clarity of light between showers and as the sky clears. All in all this week, despite the rain, will afford the walker with much to stop and investigate.

Keep an eye out for wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) too, with path side foliage less dense in winter it is a great time of year to watch these otherwise elusive mammals scurrying about the leaf litter. Although they are often considered to be nocturnal, during harder winter months they will often be found out during the day in mild weather, or after a cold snap, to forage. Seeds, nuts, young shoots, berries, worms, spiders and the like are all on the menu of a wood mouse, and they enjoy the young leaves of dandilion and red clover plants especially in spring.

Wednesday 13th January 2010 (entry added by AB @ 23.10)

January has continued December's trend of cold weather with liberal quantities of snow over the past seven days. Last Wednesday the woodland was transformed into a pure white winter wonderland. The thaw has set in now, and despite a dusting of fresh snow last night the current mild spell of weather will see the thaw continue over the next few days.

Deep mid winter. (PHOTO: AB)

The heavy snow and freezing temperatures are of course a bonus to the woodland, the spring bulbs that are triggered by winter cold should put on a very fine display this year! It also ensures only the fittest of mammals and insects survive the winter and go on to breed. This may seem harsh, but nature is a tough manager of it's environment, and in the long term a harsh winter is infact a positive and important cycle in the natural world of Hollybank Woods.

Walkers on the central path in Hollybank. (PHOTO: Chris Ison)

The enforced holiday atmosphere last Wednesday and Thursday brought out many walkers and families to enjoy the delights of the winter wonderland. Our woodland walk leader and folklore 'guru' Jonathon Huet set out on a mini expedition to experience a bitterly cold night in the snow at first hand, without canvas! Last seen with backpack and munching high energy snacks on the southern approach to the woods, we trust he returned home safely the following day! We will keep you posted and hopefully be able to add a blog entry by Jonathon in the coming week sharing his experience.

Snow covered catkins thawing out. (PHOTO: AB)

Thursday 31st December 2009 (entry added by AB @ 20.35)

As Decemeber draws to a close, we wish all our visitors to both the woodland and website a very happy New Year for 2010.

December in Hollybank. (PHOTO: AB)

December has seen torrential rain, snow, black ice and storm force winds sweep across the woodland. As deep mid winter grips Hollybank we can at least look forward to the prospect of spring on the far horizon. Mid winter is, however, a beautiful time of year in a woodland.

December in Hollybank. (PHOTO: AB)

The woodland is very wet at the moment, a lot of surface mud on main tracks. However, with the prospect of clear blue sky and a winter chill on the air, walking in the woods this weekend should be popular after the holiday excesses!

Saturday 21st November 2009 (entry added by Brian Fellows @ 23.15)

It was a lovely late autumn morning for a gentle stroll through this beautiful woodland, wielding my trusty Panasonic digital camera, hoping to capture some of the experiences for my later pleasure.

I walked round the Circular Path in the western section and wandered through the eastern section. It was a particularly pleasant walk with the paths in remarkably good condition, despite recent rain. There was little evidence of the horse riding which always used to produce a terrible muddy mess of the paths. Have the riders stopped using the woods?

It was all very quiet on the bird front with only the harsh calls of a Jay and an occasional squawk from a Blackbird breaking the silence. However, the absence of bird song did not diminish my pleasure with lots of other things to admire, such as the brown Beech leaves.

Trees and fruits
I loved the rich range of colours in the leaves and the tangle of dead Bracken and Bramble. There was a very good crop of red Holly berries, fortunately, most out of reach of Xmas gatherers. As for fungi, I noticed two good crops of Clouded Algaric and the inevitable Birch Polypore.

Mosses and Lichen
Mosses were prominent as usual, particularly Bank Haircap and a Feather Moss.

I had a go at identifying a couple of common lichens. I found several examples of a Usnea species, festooning rather like a grey-green hair from twigs, which is often called beard-moss or beard-lichen. The sample I photographed might be Usnea filipendula which is widespread in wooded areas. The other lichen was green and grew flat along twigs and looked like an Evernia (Oak moss) species.

Further information on Usnea lichen
Usnea grows all over the world. Like other lichens it is a symbiosis of a fungus and an alga. The fungus belongs to the division Ascomycota, while the alga is a member of the division Chlorophyta.

Usnea is very sensitive to air pollution, especially sulfur dioxide. Under bad conditions they may grow no larger than a few millimetres, if they survive at all. Where the air is unpolluted, they can grow to 10-20 cm long.

Usnea has been used medicinally for at least 1,000 years. Usnic acid, a potent antibiotic and antifungal agent, is found in most species. This, combined with the hairlike structure of the lichen, means that Usnea lent itself well to treating surface wounds when sterile gauze and modern antibiotics were unavailable. It is also edible and high in vitamin C.

Monday 26th October 2009 (entry added by JB @ 17.30)

I had a short walk with Bo through Hollybank Woods this afternoon. Even though it is the end of October, the weather at the start of this half-term week has been wonderfully mild and I saw several families with young children enjoying the warm sunshine. Although damp underfoot the warm sunshine made it a wonderful autumn stroll.

The autumn colours are now quite beautiful and the leaves are beginning to fall. The Yew trees in particular seem to have a lot of berries this year. Interestingly, and in contrast to the end of September (see Brian's blog 30th September) there now seems to be an abundance of plump Sweet chestnuts on the ground and since I prefer them raw and not roasted I ate a couple on my walk. They were delicious!

If the weather stays like this until the weekend we should find some very interesting specimens on the Fungus Foray on Sunday.

Many people think fungi are plants but in fact, fungi have been allocated a separate kingdom all of their own. Fungi like all this humidity and they are important in woodlands because trees are not very good at making their own food and the fungi can supply the tree with nutrients from the soil and in return the tree gives the fungi some sugars. The tree and the fungi both win from this relationship.

So fungi do a very important job, breaking down dead vegetation and fallen wood as well as decomposing dead animals, getting rid of a lot of animal and plant remains and providing nutrients.

Why not come along on Sunday morning at 10am to find out more about these wonderful fungi.

Wednesday 30th September 2009 (entry added by Brian Fellows @ 09.00)

Wood Small-reed.
I had a walk around the woods yesterday for a couple of hours in glorious autumn sunshine this afternoon. One objective was to have a look for the Wood Small-reed in the western section of the woods at Grid Ref: SU 7414 0802 that I first noticed on Feb 4 this year and have checked a couple of times subsequently. It was well hidden amongst the tall Bracken in the open area inside the circular walk. and I had to force my way through the Bracken and tangled Bramble to get to it.

Pampas Grass.
On the way I noticed, could hardly have missed in fact, three tall spikes of Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana) about 200 metres to the east of the Wood Small-reed. I had never seen this plant in the woods before and wonder how it got there. It is a common garden plant, but this grass is deep in the woodland, well away from gardens and would have to have been deliberately planted.

Autumn fruits.
I noticed some of the Holly bushes (e.g, north of the Holly Lodge clearing) were loaded with red berries and it looks like a good year. The garden Japonica bush in the Holly Lodge clearing has masses of quinces, more than I recall seeing there before. There were also plenty of berries on the totally leafless Rowans to the south of the eastern bridleway. There were plenty of Sweet Chestnut cases on the ground but with nuts of relatively poor quality. Not a good year?

Quinces in Holly Lodge clearing. (PHOTO: AB)

Wild flowers.
Water Pepper and Wood Sage were both flowering along the edges of the paths and Heather on the open areas to in amongst the Bracken.

The only fungi I noticed were some Common Earthballs in the western section and a fine Birch Polypore on a fallen Birch tree.

Wild flowers.
Water Pepper and Wood Sage were both flowering along the edges of the paths and Heather on the open areas to in amongst the Bracken.

Sunday 30th August 2009 (entry added by AB @ 17.30)

Signs of autumn abound in the woodland, birch and beech leaves are turning to autuminal colours already in the central and western areas. There has been a chill in the air today at times, a sign of summer departing and winter's approach.

Don't forget the Emsworth Show, Bank Holiday Monday. Stop by the Hollybank Woods stand if you are going to be there and say hi!

Saturday 8th August 2009 (entry added by AB @ 10.00)

This year still looks to be one of the best in recent records for butterfly in the woodland. Speckled Wood an early riser this morning alongside the main rides.

Another fire last week started intentionally in the eastern woodland, but swiftly dealt with once again by Emsworth's brigade and fire engine, assisted by a Landrover unit from Waterlooville.

Irresistible to birds at the moment are the juicy and plentiful red berries of the Mountain Ash (Rowan) tree, which this year seem to have early bumper crops both here in Hollybank Woods and also down in Brook Meadow in Emsworth. It will be interesting to see if this autumn also sees a hearty flush of berries on the Holly trees too.

Bumper crops too of Blackberries in the woodland, with a good flush of new berries after last weeks rain. Warm weather over the coming weeks should provide a bumper harvest with more to follow in early September. Maybe all this early and plentiful fruit is a signal we are due for a harsh winter this year!

If you have a while to sit on a log in one of the woodland clearings, keep an eye out for Woodmice out gathering nuts and berries now. They favor the margins of clearings, but if you wait patiently you may be rewarded by the sight of these beautiful creatures as they busy themselves with the never ending task of feeding both themselves and their young. A few shrews and voles venture out briefly too, mostly to scurry across a path and into the undergrowth once again. Slow Worms are about at the moment, but the best days to see them are when the sun has warmed up the rides and woodland paths and they are basking in the heat. Also keep an eye to old logs alongside paths as they also curl up on these to pass time between hunting and feeding.

The blog will be taking a break as the woodland settles into high summer. The blog will return again on 24th September with regular updates as autumn unfolds over the woodland.

Friday 24th July 2009 (entry added by AB @ 23.12)

Many thanks to both Emsworth and Waterlooville Fire Brigades for their prompt response to peat and root fires in Hollybank Woods last night as a result of a camp fire the night before in the northern central woodland. Long term conservation will be required to monitor the Yew tree where the root fire broke out, and to assess the immediate impact on this 500+ year old tree.

Fires are an on going problem during summer months, and we have already lost several veteran Yew trees over the last three years to careless 'camp fire builders'. To help improve access to the central woodland area new fire tracks will be opened up to make life easier for Emsworth's brigade when they have to respond. We have managed for the last 8 years with the fire access little changed, so it is overdue for an improvement. Over the coming weeks there may be additional tree work and scrub clearing in the central area to minimise damage from potential summer fires.

John Bond, Hollybank's Chairman, is liaising with the police over the issue of responding to youth fire lighting, and anyone seeing fires being lit should phone the police.

As alarming as the news of fires is, it is not our only problem at this time. For some reason healthy young trees are being felled by groups of youth intent on destroying everything they come across! If you see anyone hacking at trees with an axe or like in the woodland please report it to the police and email us with a rough location for our records.

Our forester, Chris Bain, will be assessing these felled trees on Monday next week. We will probably leave them as they are to rot down for habitat. Not ideal as they were strong healthy trees.

If you happen to be in the plantation area over on the eastern side of the wood, you will see how well Chris is progressing with the plan to open up light to some of the struggling oaks and get to grips with the conifer plantation as part of our 10 year plan for regeneration of glades, heathland and habitat.

Sunday 19th July 2009 (entry added by AB @ 21.30)

Despite a wet start, the sun came out and this mornings butterfly walk was a great success. A full report to follow. Many thanks to Mike Bridger for leading the walk and sharing so freely both his knowledge and enthusiasm for butterfies and the woodland.

Sunday 12th July 2009 (entry added by AB @ 23.05)

An amazing day for butterfly, probably a result of the rain at the end of last week. Large numbers on the wing. Peacock, White Admiral, Comma, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Small Skipper, Painted Lady, Large White, Speckled Wood and two species of Fritillary awaiting identification.

The week ahead is likely to be somewhat wet, but let us hope there will be some sun to bring the butterfly out. Next weekend, Sunday 19th, is the butterfly walk in Hollybank. Details on the front page.

Gatekeeper Butterfly (PHOTO: AB)

Friday 10th July 2009 (entry added by AB @ 22.23)

Meadow Grasshopper in Hollybank (PHOTO: AB)

Notable this week is the sudden explosion in numbers of Meadow Grasshopper in the clearing at the site of the former Hollybank Lodge in the central woodland. A beautiful and elegant grasshopper. They seem to be creating somewhat of a stronghold in the main clearing here. Worth looking for among the marginal grasses, between 16mm and 21mm in length. The picture above is of course many times life size. But if you carry a hand field magnifier lens you will be able to get close enough to see for yourself the intricate markings that make this grasshopper one of the most rewarding to study at close quarters.

Sunday 5th July 2009 (entry added by AB @ 22.50)

This week we hope to have a more detailed map online, which will allow web visitors to explore the woodland by area. So when, for example, we refer to the Hollybank Lodge clearing, you will be able to look at the map and locate where it is.

Now for a quick round up of wildlife sightings. Plenty of butterfly on the wing this weekend. Ringlet, Comma, Red Admiral, White Admiral, Gatekeeper and Meadow Brown the most common sights. Cinnabar moth caterpillars are now being seen in the central woodland too.

Good display of Birds-Foot Trefoil in the Hollybank Lodge clearing, so named as the seed head looks like a birds foot.

Keep an eye out for beetles on the paths around the woodland too. The Door Beetle (also known as Dumbledor as it generally bumbles about) can be found if you keep a careful eye out. A common dung beetle, but well worth observing if you find one!

Thursday 25th June 2009 (entry added by AB @ 08.45)

Dotted Loosestrife in the garden clearing at the site of the former Hollybank Lodge.(PHOTO: AB)

**White Admiral butterfly sightings started on Monday 22nd June this year.**

Most easily observed of the butterfly on the wing this week are White Admiral, Painted Lady, Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown and Gate Keeper. Plenty of Hawker Dragonflies about the woodland glades along with Broad-Bodied Chaser too.

Saturday 20th June 2009 (entry added by AB @ 23.05)

Mike (Bridger), Mike (Perry) and Robin identifying moths. (PHOTO: AB)

Many thanks to Mike, Robin and all the team who made the Moth and Bat evening last night such a success once again. A really great turn out for this annual event, and a pleasure to see the children enjoying themselves identifying, helping to record and releasing moths. Some more rare moths were identified, and we all enjoyed the atmosphere late into the night. Finally the moth traps were powered down, the site cleared and with Landrover, generators and cables departed, the woodland darkness once again closed in. As we locked the gate at around 12.30am a Little Owl called from alongside the track, guiding us safely to the main road.

Special thanks as always have to got to John and Pauline Bond for all their hard work in putting together this marvellous event. A full list of the moths identified will be online early in July.

Lime Hawk-moth.(PHOTO: AB)

Whilst the moth traps were being warmed up earlier in the evening, and as dusk fell, we all took a walk over to the conifer plantation area armed with a bat detector and enthusiastic expectation for bats! We do not often see many on this annual event, but this year we were rewarded by hearing Pipistrelles on the bat detector as it was passed around. Both Pipistrelles, Pip 45 and Pip 55 ( 45/55 refers to the destinctive two frequencies that they echo locate on when hunting ) were heard. Pipistrelles are the smallest and commonest bat in the UK but this did not detract from the pleasure of sharing the twilight with them on a summer evening.

Thursday 28th May 2009 (entry added by AB @ 21.05)

Oak galls, May 2009. (PHOTO: AB)

Marble galls are noticeably wide spread in Hollybank Woods at the moment. These woody galls appear all year round and actually cause no damage to the oak tree itself. Even in years when galling is extensive within the woodland, there are still sufficient numbers of viable acorns to ensure future oak trees.

These galls are caused by the gall wasps, of which there are over 30 species in the British Isles. These gall wasps are highly specialised, each laying their eggs in a particular part of the tree, such as bark, buds and acorns etc. The gall wasp grub secretes chemicals that alter the cell division process resulting in the tree producing gall tissues to enclose, and thereby protect, the grub. Within the gall itself there is a layer of nutritious cells that the grub feeds on.

The grub pupates within the gall and eventually emerges as an adult wasp to start the cycle again.

Monday 25th May 2009 (entry added by AB @ 22.40)

A warm sunny weekend and a flush of butterfly on the wing in the central woodland includng Speckled Wood, Brimstone, Large White and Painted Lady.

The Painted Lady is a migrant from North Africa, and the most widely distributed butterfly in the world. The early arrivals on our shores will probably have flown directly from Africa, though later summer arrivals are likely to have been from broods produced in Europe. With a breeding cycle of about a month from egg to adult, multiple broods are possible during warm years in northern Europe. Why these butterfly head north is still a mystery as they cannot survive the winter. In north Africa the species continually produces broods without any hibernation stage.

Despite the northern migration of the Painted Lady there seems no credible reason for this. It serves no evolutionary purpose as they do not hibernate. A few individuals have been recorded to survive winter months in sheds and garages in southern England, but these are exceptions not the rule. They may actually migrate south again each autumn, but as they do not congregate in large numbers probably go un-noticed. Intreaguing consideration, and a question that perhaps more detailed research into the species in it's European habitat may answer in the future.

From gardens to woodlands, meadows to garden centres, you will find the Painted Lady on any nectar source now through to late October. The female Painted lady lays her eggs singly on the leaves of thistles and common nettles. Expect another flush in August once the May and June migrants have had a brood or two here.

Photo of Painted Lady to be will be added.

Monday 18th May 2009 (entry added by AB @ 22.15)

Nesting in Hollybanks nest boxes has been somewhat add hock over the past couple of years. 2008 saw 70% occupancy compared to just 40% in 2007 across the main 16 nest boxes. Overall nesting occupancy for the 16 boxes has been about 50% on average. This, however, is not the full picture. Of the remaining 50% of available nest box space between 30 and 40% has been utilised by wood mice in summer!

Nest box identification No. 04HW02 is an interesting case in point when reviewing the success of nest boxes in a woodland. The eagle eyed walker in Hollybank Woods may have noticed various designs of nest box and the unique reference code on the underside of each. The code, easy to read from the ground when looking upwards, denotes the spring season in which it was put up for (04=spring 2004), all boxes are put up in the winter preceding the first spring of intended use so records start in November 2003 for this box, next the woodland, i.e. Hollybank or Longcopse (HW=Hollybank Woods) and box number (02=nest box number 2),

Apex nest box id: 04HW02.. (PHOTO: AB)

Each spring since 2004 this box has had a successful family of blue tits, and each winter the box is cleaned out and inspected to make sure it is in good repair as spring approaches. Over the last 6 years we have found lodgers in residence for the winter months. Unconcerned by the removal and refiting of the front panel for the annual inspection ahead of each spring, these winter lodgers give us an insight into the importance of nest boxes, and not just for birds.

Over the past 6 winters (late October through to February) this box has been home to wood mice in 2003/4, 2005/6, 2006/7, and bees in 2004/5, 2007/8 and 2008/9. Then, during the spring and early summer months blue tits have nested every year since it's first season in 2004.

The history of this box has not been trouble free, however, and despite it being placed high up in an oak tree, back in 2006 we had to rescue the box from the undergrowth by the main path that runs past the tree on which it is normally secured. It seemed that someone had climbed up on lower branches and then knocked the box off the tree.

Despite a fall of some 15 feet into the undergrowth, and with the front panel half hanging out, the parents were still flying backwards and forwards to the stricken box to feed their offspring. Amazing dedication.

Having secured the front panel, put a ladder up into the tree, we resecured the box back into place. Having cut off the branches lower down to prevent further disturbance, the box not only successfully fledged these chicks, but went on to see a second brood fledge too in the same season.

We often talk about veteran trees in a woodland, but this is for certain a veteran nest box by any standards! And once again, this year the box is populated with a family of blue tits.

Monday 18th May 2009 (entry added by Lynne Wadey @ 19.15)

I joined the ''Trees'' walk led by Jonathon Huet this morning (Sunday 17th May). The day had started with heavy rainfall but luckily, about 10minutes before the start of the walk, the rain eased and the sky brightened.

At the entrance to the woods Jonathon pointed out a Hawthorn (May) tree in blossom and explained that the flowers and leaves can be dried and used as an infusion which is good for the heart. We followed the path to the right where we saw an Alder tree, identified by its small cones, and further on a beautiful Beech tree whose wood can be used for making wooden books.

In the bluebell glade Jonathon showed us several different varieties of tree. Cherry which can be identified by two small nodules on the leaves, Silver Birch with its shiny silvery trunk, Sweet Chestnut with its twisted bark and Oak. We also noticed a young Cherry tree which the Friends of Hollybank will try to protect.

We continued on towards the conifer section of the woods, passing a Sycamore, Hazel and a young Pussy Willow which has greyish bark and which gives salicylic acid. This acid is used in the manufacture of aspirin and wart treatment.

At the edge of the conifer section Jonathon showed us a Yew tree and a Western Red Cedar which is a North American flat leaved conifer whose leaves give a sweet smell, similar to pineapple, when crushed. The Scots Pine is another of the main trees alongside the Western Red Cedar in the conifer wood and we saw how the deciduous trees such as oak were struggling to survive in this area.

The weather continued to be kind to us and we followed the main path towards the crossroads and Jonathon pointed out a Norway Spruce and an Elder tree on the way. Also growing nearby were several large Burdoch plants whose roots can be used as a blood purifier. Between the crossroads and the glade we saw a Yew, Pine and a Mountain Ash (Rowan) and in Holly Lodge Glade we were shown a Lawson Cypress.

The final part of the walk took us to see the oldest Yew tree in Hampshire, believed to be about 1000 years old, a magnificent tree! We then continued to the main track to see a Douglas Fir and an Ash tree before making our way back to the starting point in Hollybank Lane.

To find out more about Jonathon ''Huet's School of Magical Treecraft and Wilderness Skills'', you can visit his web site by clicking here.

Bluebells are still out alongside woodland paths. (PHOTO: Lynne Wadey)


From the archives, 7 years ago (2005).. (2004).. (2003)..

7 years ago (2005)
Tuesday 17th and Wednesday 18th May 2005 (Diary entry: Jane Brook)

The rain over night on Monday helped to damp down any remaining embers from Monday afternoons fires in the central and western woodland. There are now four areas of fire damage in the central and western area. With Wednesday being a blisteringly warm day compared to recent weeks the rain forecast for Thursday into Friday will be a welcome event, not just to damp down the remaining bracken which has become tinder dry, but also for the trees and plants which need a final top up before the early summer burst of colour.

Bluebells and Orchids are still in fine show this week, and all around Hollybank the Foxgloves are starting to shoot up. Expect a superb display this year.

No sign of any Common Lizard in the central area where last weeks fires were, but much of their habitat is around the damp margins of a central grass and moss covered section, so they still have at least half of their habitat un damaged which was good news. A month or so later and the story could have been very different.

Cuckoo still the best of the bird song in terms of 'identification of song' if you are not too expert in the field, and very rewarding to stand and listen to them. Green Woodpeckers have been the most vocal this week of Hollybanks bird life, with Robin and Blackbird not to be out done in the choral stakes and following up close behind.

8 years ago (2004)
Sunday 16th May 2004 (Diary entry: Brian Fellows)

The weather was fine and sunny for this morning's guided bird walk from 10 to 12 noon at which 5 people attended, including John and Pauline Bond and Sue Drewett. As planned we did the circular walk through the western section before going through the eastern section as far as the county boundary. We did not go onto Longcopse Hill.

The birds were generally a little quieter than in my recce on Thursday morning, though Robins were particularly vocal throughout the walk. Most of the common woodland birds were heard. Of the nest boxes we looked at we found two that were being used. Apex box (04HW06) on the large Beech near the main bridlepath junction was being visited by Blue Tits. Birch Log box (04HW10) on the south side of the eastern bridleway east of the D-Day encampment was being visited by Great Tits. The entrance hole of the latter box had been damaged, presumably by Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Butterflies seen included several Whites, 2 Holly Blues, 1 Speckled Wood, 2 Brimstones and a Peacock. More common were the day flying Speckled Yellow Moths which occasionally perched on vegetation allow us to admire their very attractive speckled mustard-coloured upper wings.

The goup were pleased to establish the distinction between Yellow Pimpernel (5 pointed yellow sepals) and Tormentil (4 notched yellow petals). Other flowering plants identified included Barren Strawberry, Herb-Robert, Wood Avens (also known as Herb Bennett), Greater Stitchwort, Wood Melick, Wood Millet, Remote Sedge, Wood Sedge and possibly Slender Sedge.

9 years ago (2003)
Sunday 18th May 2003 (Diary entry: AB)

The fine weather over the past ten days has unfortunatley led to a number of small fires being lit in areas where last years dead bracken has become tinder dry. No serious damage has been caused, but it is still of concern, especially as the resident bird population is still in full swing feeding young. Many smaller birds nest low down and in among the ground foliage, Robin and wren are most at risk in the central and south western woodland where fires have already occured.

Lizard, Shrew, Vole and Mice are often caught in these flash fires that quickly sweep over open areas. In terms of the overal population there is little cause for concern at present, and in one area both the Little Owl and Kestral seem to have taken advantage of the open ground for hunting. Larger fires over a substantial area would however bring short term disturbance to the woodland biodiversity, in terms of habitat loss for insects and larger mammals such as Roe Deer that rely on the dense low foliage to lay up their young during the day.

Comma, Painted, Specled Wood, Holly Blues and Brimstone butterfly are prominent on the wing throughout Hollybank at the moment, but no sighting yet of the first white Admiral of the year.

The woodland Woodpecker population is having a very good year, with at least three nests in the central woodland. Whilst walking it is worth pausing if you spot a hole high up in a tree, as you may be rewarded by the sounds of chattering young. One brood of Great Spotted Woodpecker are particularly vocal at the moment!

The Nest boxes which were put up throughout Hollybank last winter have been a great success, with 50% occupancy in the first season, most encouraging indeed.

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nature notes

Good news on Rabbits!

(entry added by AB on 02.06.2013 @ 08.30)

Young rabbit (PHOTO: AB)

Rabbits are vital to the long term ecology of Hollybank, and the drop in numbers over the last 8 years due to an outbreak of myxomatosis was of great concern.

This spring there has been an increase in numbers throughout the woodland. This is very good news as they keep areas of grass both in the clearings and alongside paths tidy. They also deal with invasive weeds, that whilst welcome on the margins, would detract from the asthetic nature of a small woodland glade.

Important too for both stoat and weasel who rely on them as a year round source of food. The decline in numbers of both stoat and weasel can be directly linked to rabbit population. Rabbits can be a serious pest to farmers, but here within the nature reserve they are paramount to a balanced and healthy eco system. Here in Hollybank our buzzard family also rely heavily on the rabbits.

Rabbits 'graze' in late afternoon for half an hour or so before spending time selectively feeding. They may remain out in the open for many hours, although always alert for danger. They forage in small groups, but sometimes a warren may have upto 20 rabbits. Social animals, but often relatively solitary too.

They breed at a young age and can produce litters of up to 7 young. Rabbits gestation period is 28 to 31 days. They often breed 4 or 5 times a year. A newborn rabbit is naked, blind and helpless at birth. Remarkably the mother is very inattentive to their young, almost absentee parents, commonly nursing their young only once per day and for just a few minutes. To overcome this lack of attention, the milk of rabbits is highly nutritious and among the richest of all mammals. The young grow rapidly and most are weaned in about a month. Males (bucks) do not assist in rearing the kittens. The mother rabbit is able to become pregnant again 4 days after the birth of her kittens. Rabbits have an average life span of up to 9 years. Though predation, and the myxomatosis that still runs through generations of wild rabbits, generally dictates a far shorter life span in the wild.

All pet rabbits should be vaccinated as a matter of course due to the fact that the disease is passed on by mites, fleas, mosquitoes and other biting insects. Wet summer weather is often linked with increased outbreaks of myxomatosis in late summer and early winter months, so hopefully this summer will be hot and dry! There is some immunity building within the wild rabbit population, though new strains of this obscene man released disease mutate every year.

Aphids on Foxgloves

(entry added by AB on 19.05.2013 @ 20.30)

Ants in Hollybank Woods herding aphids.

Ants have been found to use chemical shackles to herd the aphids they farm for honeydew and to stop them wandering off to other plants.

Researchers reported in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, that ants secrete semiochemicals from their feet as they walk along stems and leaves, which has the effect of tranquillising the aphids. By making the movement of the aphids much slower the ants are able to herd their livestock effectively.

Tom Oliver, of Imperial College, London, says: "We believe that ants could use the tranquillising chemicals in their footprints to maintain a populous farm of aphids close to their colony, to provide honeydew on tap."

Ants have even been known to occasionally eat some of the aphids themselves, so subduing them in this way is obviously a great way to keep renewable honeydew and prey easily available.

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