History – what we know
What we call the Rosemary Lane Wood is actually shown as Park Copse and Crossway Field Copse on OS maps.
We don’t know exactly when these two copses were joined together to form the 37 acre wood which exists today, but it was probably in the mid to late 19C. We do know that the northern section of Park Copse, blocks 1, 2 and 3 has been woodland for centuries so is classified as Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland. This does not mean the trees themselves are old and the area is mainly birch, ash and hazel and none of it look that old.
The traditional management method called “coppice with standards’ lets some trees, mainly oak, grow tall and allows the understory to develop in the areas between. The standard trees would be cut after 70 years or more and the coppice every 7 to 25 years depending on the products being produced. This type of management created a rich and varied habitat for all kinds of birds, mammals, and insects.
The decline of coppice management during the 1ate 19th early 20th centuries led to corresponding declines in wildlife.
Without the regular cutting cycle woodlands became darker and many species declined and some were lost as the canopy closed
The wood today
Key features map
There is a very clear and well defined ditch and bund feature around the entire perimeter. The wood is subdivided into the 5 blocks you see on the map with a more minor ditch and bund marking each block. The western boundary of our wood is where you see the green, red and yellow line. We don’t own the land over which the north-south bridleway runs.
The first thing we had to do was create a new entrance capable of taking working vehicles at the entrance on Rosemary Lane where you see the X on the map above.
Starting from the North. We haven’t really explored Blocks 1 and 2 which are densely coppiced hazel with ash and birch. We haven’t detected any sign of old maiden trees. There is one particularly fine large old maiden oak in the centre of the wood just to the north of the Scots Pine plantation which we think was probably originally part of a field boundary.
The southern section of the ancient semi-natural section (3a) must have been clear felled to be replanted with a plantation of Scots Pine. We think this was probably never thinned, or only thinned once, and was in a very poor state when we bought the wood in 2011. We were advised to clear fell it by a number of forestry companies but the advice from Sussex Wildlife Trust was to try to retain some conifer for biodiversity purposes so we tried thinning instead and we are now pleased we persevered.
Blocks 4 and 5 are different again. We think these were planted with hazel for coppicing with oak standards over a period of 20-30 years or so from 1850 onwards. Some coppicing of these sections was done many years ago and the oak were probably thinned once or twice.
Starting in 2018 under our ownership Blocks 5a and 5b were coppiced and the weaker oaks removed. In 2032 it was restocked with 600 or so mixed deciduous saplings including 400 oak. Thanks to the increased light and sunshine, which has brought in more woodland plants, it has become a particular stronghold of the various butterfly colonies including the Wood White.
Creation or restoration of rides and glades to allow in sunlight is crucial. This excellent Woodland management: rides, glades and coppice publication from the Kent Wildlife Trust explains this very well.
The advice sheet contains information about the following topics: why ‘manage’ woodlands, management of woodland: introducing more sunlight by opening up the canopy, species which benefit from coppiced woodland, rides and glades, before starting any work, creating and managing rides & glades, coppicing, grants and felling licences, legislation and other considerations, protected species, and further reading.
Conservation. Brush clearance around recent saplings as well as tree and plug planting is now carried out every winter