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Melwood Starts Spring Early


Even before the Christmas decorations had come down, the snowdrops in Melwood were coming into bloom. Two plants in particularly favourable positions made their first showings before New Year but with colder weather now forecast, I guess this early start will soon be put on hold.


A blue tit in one of the Melwood nesting


The flowers do not seem to be alone in anticipating spring. In my back garden, a pair of blue tits have already laid claim to the nest box on the side of the house. I am not aware of this species pairing for life, but these two birds have certainly been together since the end of November. I do not claim to be able to tell one blue tit from another, but I assume they are pretty skilled at it themselves and the two birds that regularly chase


each other around the same branches and sit on the same perches are therefore presumed to be the same pair.


The above observation makes it important to add the cleaning and repair of nest boxes in Melwood to the schedule for the next Melwood working party. In the mid-term of our five-year Management Plan, the emphasis is on re-establishment of ancient hedge lines and encouraging ground flora through improved glades of sunlight. Hedge work on the eastern side of the reserve will remove excessive ash saplings, whilst leaving a select few for future establishment. We will need to keep a close watch for ash dieback, one of the latest diseases to attack our forest trees, and we must be prepared to cut and burn any affected branches before entire trees become infected.


With excess saplings removed and more light along the hedge line, mature old hawthorns will be layered with a high cut, rather than the ground level layering more suitable to younger bushes. We are already starting to see the establishment of wild rose and honeysuckle along parts of the eastern hedge worked on last winter. We await with anticipation, the emergence of the more interesting flowers that made their first appearance last year. The first of these should be the oxlips 4


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