Lunar Wood is an Ancient Bluebell Wood in East Sussex. It is about 15 acres in size and comprises three fairly distinct areas, each composed of a different mix of trees.
My partner Fi and I bought it in February 2010 jointly with my mother June with the aim of bringing it back into productivity by managing it in a traditional manner. Our hope is that by embracing a sound management regimen we will be able to increase its biodiversity, turning it into a haven for plants and wildlife.
We will be coppicing smaller areas than previously cut in this wood, cants of ½ an acre rather than 2-3 acres at a time. The coups will in general be on a shorter rotation than previously undertaken, ranging from 2 – 10 years depending on species being cut and our desired end products.
Area A:- Pure Sweet Chestnut Coppice
This first area, to the South East of the wood is about 4 acres of pure Sweet Chestnut coppice [Castanea sativa]. It was over-stood with trunks of up to 2′ in diameter. It was re coppiced in the winter of 2008, before our purchase of Lunar Wood and at the time of writing (June 2010) the regrowth is over 12′ high in places. There has been some loss of stools to deer grazing but the new growth is now getting beyond their reach and I expect the remainder to grow away well.
In some of the areas where the stools have completely died we would like to plant some Willows of different species to produce material for basket making and for finer hurdle making.
Area B:- Hazel Coppice with Oak Standards
The second area, to the West of the wood is about 5 acres of Oak Standards with an understory of Hazel Coppice. This is a truly stunning area: a sea of Bluebells [Hyacinthoides non-scripta] and Wood Anemone [Anemone nemrosa] in late May and early June. As well as the towering Oak standards and the Hazel coppice there are many other species present: Ash, Wild Apple and Pear, Mountain Ash, Elder, Beech, Hawthorn, Hornbeam…
The stocking density of the Hazel is very low and the area has not been cut for about 30 years. At some stage (soon?) we will be trying to increase the stool density by layering and planting. This is quite a big undertaking as the stools will have to be protected in some way from the ever present problem of grazing by deer, rabbits and squirrels.
Area C:- Planted Oak with Birch Scrub
This part of Lunar Wood, which is to the North East, is an area of Oak. It looks like they were planted about 7-10 years ago on a clear felled site.
The Birch scrub is about 3 times the height of the Oaks and is taking over and a lot will need to be removed. The tree tubes have protected the Oaks quite well from grazing by deer but the planting has been neglected and the tubes are so tight on many of the Oaks that the trees are beginning to suffer a lot.
One of our priority tasks is to remove the tubes from all trees that are being damaged and to reduce the amount of Birch, giving the Oaks more light and water and less competition in general.
Gradually I hope to make this area more informal (break up the rows a bit) and fill in the spaces where trees have died with blocks of other native species: more Hazel coppice, Ash [Fraxinus excelsior], Field Maple [Acer campestre], etc.
Fortunately the ground flora in this section does not seem to have been too badly affected by the clear fell and replant and seems to be quite varied with many Ancient Woodland indicator plants.
Other Areas and Features
Wood Bank and Bridleway
Along the South Eastern edge of Lunar Wood is a bridleway that runs from H. D. to W. Farm. This is bounded on both sides by a woodbank . There is also a woodbank on the South Western edge of Lunar Wood.
Running down the center of the wood is a ride that separates Area B from Area C. Just to the South of this ride, where it meets Area A (the Chestnut coppice) is what appears to be the remains of an old Saw Pit. We will investigate when time allows.