The volunteers have started some ecological projects. This involves coppicing Hazel and clearing undergrowth at the far end of Canada Glade along the Longford, and in Pumphouse wood behind the Bog Garden. This clearance will allow light through the canopy and allow regeneration of the scrub which is an essential habitat for some of our wildlife.
Rhododendron ponticum removal has started in the Pheasantry plantation at the fence line next to Keepers wood. This will be burnt on site and replaced with planting of holly to provide a screen for the planting of Hazel coppice which will replace the ponticum throughout the wood. This will provide a wildlife sanctuary that can be managed as as part of our SSSI (Site of special scientific interest)
The Garden staff are collecting up the leaves which get composted and returned to the garden as a mulch on the beds.
A shrub worth seeking out this month is Viburnum x bodnantense “Dawn” Which is located in the secret glade opposite the outflow of the Waterhouse Pond. It has sweetly fragrant pink flowers and is a particularly fine specimen.
We have now reached a fairly quiet time of the year; the last of our regular winter visitors should have reached the United Kingdom’s shores and be enjoying the slightly milder conditions here. With the warming effect the Gulf Stream offers, birds such as the Redwing that have travelled from either Iceland or Russia are usually able to find plenty of food. The normal plentiful supply of berries; Hawthorn, Holly and in towns and cities, Cotoneaster are normally eaten first. When this larder is bare, they then hope that the ground is soft enough for them to feed on worms and other invertebrates in the soil or under leaves. The Park normally has a few Redwings feeding in the wooded areas, they are quite nervy and not very approachable, taking to the trees if frightened. If we have a sudden cold snap then these birds could be joined by a larger member of the thrush family, the Fieldfare. This is a very attractive bird with its slate blue head and rump, chestnut back, black tail and golden chest with dark streaking. Apart from these overseas visitors there is another member of the thrush family and one that has a small resident population. This is the Mistle Thrush and can you guess where it can be found feeding? That is right, on the Mistletoe berries. It is also the time of year when the Little Egret, a bird whose breeding range has spread up from southern Europe, arrives in the Park. Until the late 1970’s it would have caused 100’s of twitchers (very enthusiastic bird watchers) to come flocking to see it. We have had a bird return to winter in the Park since 2010; it was accompanied by a second bird in 2013. This bird can sometimes be found feeding on the stretch of the Longford River that exits the park at the western end of Lime Avenue or the channels in the Woodland Garden and recently by the steps in the river by the Brew House. These areas also offer you the chance of seeing the Park’s Kingfishers; listen out for their piping call.
The arboricultural team are undertaking their winter works programme, working through the Woodland Gardens to identify any tree works which may need to be undertaken to mitigate the risk posed by deadwood, disease and decay in trees. Additionally willows on the watersides throughout the park will be assessed and (re) pollarded if their (re) growth requires it.