Haugh Wood stands at the top of the Woolhope Dome an area of geologically older rock poking out of the Old Red Sandstone at the northern extreme of the WVAONB. Tucked away on the northern edge of the wood is Joan’s Hill Farm. This is a 46 acre site of un-improved pasture land which provides a rich and ancient flora. Under the auspices of the charity Plantlife this area is being managed to preserve this special habitat.
Within the farm is an orchard which has been in existence at least since 1843 and the task of the WVAONB volunteers (with some volunteers from Plantlife) was to help in its preservation by building some wooden tree surrounds to protect from cattle new trees when they are planted. Cattle grazing is an important part of ancient meadow management but the cattle tend to damage newly planted trees as well unless they are protected. Under the direction of Joe Costley who provided us with some background to the site and a pile of posts and rails with which to construct the cattle barriers we set out with our usual enthusiasm.
Despite the forecast we were spared all but a few drops of rain although the grass and soil was very wet in places. There were two basic techniques for building the shelters: either dig a hole for each corner post or hammer in the corner posts. Both techniques were pretty strenuous and at the end of the day achieved the same ends. Getting corner posts square on and the rails horizontal proved something of a challenge and we nearly had to resort to Pythagoras’ theorem at one point but ultimately all the timber was used up and all the shelters made without anyone managing to hammer their own thumb as far as I am aware.
As a distraction from the construction works Joe took us into an adjacent field where the green-winged orchid was known to exist and amidst a swathe of cowslips it was there in abundance. We formed a human ‘transect’ across the field and counted by eye at least four hundred plants as we traversed it. A great advance on the hundred or so plants counted last year.
This is a really lovely area and it is well worth a visit – we hope to return in September by when the new trees should be well established.
Green veined orchid