18 August 2016 Oakley

A cool walk in the woods on a very warm day with 15 members. South Oakley is a mixed hard and soft wood inclosure with some very well established Douglas Firs probably planted back in the 19th century. It is normally fairly damp underfoot and we were able to distinguish two rushes, Soft and Jointed Rushes Juncus effusus and J. articulata and among the grasses Purple Moor Grass Molinia caerulea and Yorkshire Fog Holcus lanatus.  

From the inclosure we passed into Berry Wood, a beautiful ancient and ornamental wood typical of the pasture woodland which the makes the New Forest a unique habitat. We noticed the browse line on the trees created by grazing ponies and deer and the lack undergrowth. Anthony Pasmore has written about the poor condition of many of the Forest's holly trees in the Lymington Times and we noticed a large number of such trees in Berry Wood. The Forestry Commission has been experimenting with pollarding and coppicing hollies in both enclosed and open areas in order to get them regenerate, with mixed success. The trees often die or get browsed by grazing stock. The FC are now keeping careful records of the results of their work so let's hope things will improve for the holly trees.

Cross-leaved Heath and Bell Heather
Skirting the edge of Berry Wood we saw all three of the Forest heathers, Ling, Cross-leaved Heath and Bell Heather (right), in flower. We turned into Sir Dudley's Ride, named after the former Official Verderer and Master of Buckhounds Sir Dudley Forwood, who was once Equerry to the Duke of Windsor and who lived at Old House.

Lesser Skullcap
Not many birds in evidence though Angela had seen Redstarts on the recee, but we found Silver-washed Fritillaries feeding on bramble, and Speckled Wood and Gatekeeper butterflies under the trees. Lesser Skullcap (right), Betony (top image) and Yellow Pimpernel were among the flowers we saw and we admired the beautiful old Beech trees near the car park.