Trees are best planted in the winter months avoiding hard frosts. In parkland areas new trees need to be higher that deer can reach but small enough to physically handle. A 45 litre root ball and 2.5 m high tree is standard but it depends a little on species. When planted, protection from deer is given by a 3-sided guard or 'tree-crate' whilst rabbit and vole damage is served by a plastic tree 'spiral' wrapped around the 1st 50cm of the stem. It takes a few years for the roots to become established during which time they require frequent watering. In enclosures where deer are absent and larger number of trees are required, it is easier to plant small trees known as 'whips'. They cost a few pence each and are simply protected with a small 'tree tube' that offers rabbit and vole protection but also creates a slightly warmer wind free environment whilst the tree is very small.
Horse ride repairs
During March contractors are due to make some limited repairs to the horse rides. They will be working near Ladderstile Gate, Robin Hood Gate and Oak Lodge.
New generation pollards
Many of the parks 1,400 ancient trees have been pollarded; a very old method of managing trees to produce a timber crop. Selected branches were cut off periodically for use as timber, and then allowed to re-grow. The pollards were cut above the grazing height of deer or farm animals and this process stopped about 200 years ago. Pollarding creates a squat form which is more stable that tall, etiolated trees and increases the likelihood of longevity. To ensure a future generation of veteran trees, we pollard a number of small young trees each year. The trees respond better to selective removal of some branches, and the retention of others to keep the vascular systems active. They might initially look a bit strange given our modern expectation for trees to look smart and uniform, but recreating this traditional technique is essential for the long term conservation of the park's ecology.
Frogs, toads and newts
If you cycle through the park at night watch out for amphibians on the road when it is wet. Frogs, toads and newts come out of hibernation to mate in the park's ponds and they cross the road very slowly. If the weather has been dry and / or cold, the 1st wet mild evening in spring will see large numbers on the roads. Frogs and toads look much like leaves and newts look much like a small stick – please be careful not to squash any!
Badgers are common in the park and occupy several setts in various places. Being nocturnal and shy they are difficult to see but it's not uncommon to see one scurry away from the park roads or paths if disturbed very late at night. In March they become more active and their babies are born. Badgers will roll balls of dried grass and bedding into their setts at this time of year and they also mate immediately after the young are born. As with some deer, badgers can delay fertilisation or the development of babies for up to 9 months.