‘Tread softly because you tread on my dreams’ (W.B. Yeats); a small patch of the South Downs that I went to after Tinkers Bubble. I went to stay with Mark Allery and had a lovely spot to park the Bedford on right on the edge of Lynchmere Common . I have to say many thanks to Judy for letting me stay next to her homestead. Oddly Lynchmere Common is acidic unlike the rest of the South Downs (a National Park and rightly so) which is chalk. Lynchmere common is very acidic however and was an iron producing area and is steeped in the history of iron production. Just near Mark was a lane called Hammer Lane, why? ‘Cos there was a water powered trip hammer down there.
The first thing to see was Mark’s yard (well more precisely a graveyard for Land Rovers of all kinds), then there was his workshop (and I thought I was messy! Made me look like Mr Organised) where everything he had was useful, as men always put it! I did make a very good inspection of the ‘Lazy Dog’ tools- the thistle buster was the most promising, I might get one or two of those to try out, so watch out creeping thistle…
After inspecting the yard we went off to a beautiful, quiet area in the South Downs National Park. Mark informed me that the gentleman who had looked after the hayfields (hence the first photo about dreams) had offered it to the National Trust but they had declined ( unfortunate really but their loss); there was even an old hay barn and apparently the last functional one in the parish as all the rest have been turned into holiday lets or homes (I’m not a fan of conversions as it seems to result in one of those great divides that split a rural community asunder just because of money). How times change- the fields are silent ( well sort of), the wildlife abounds but there are no people to see the ebb and flow of the seasons as they did when they worked the land of old. Dreams full of richness and a hardship that brings a community together but which money has destroyed.
Next we went to explore Lynchmere Common in Mark’s blue Land Rover ( actually he has a few but this one was excellent) . I’ve got to get one like this just to go lamping rabbits at Wimpole; even the dogs loved it.
As we drove about we came across heaps of Foxgloves, one of my favourite flowering plants and one that does not grow on chalky ground, more’s the pity.
A group of medicines extracted from foxglove plants are called digitalin.
The use of D. pursuera extract containing cardiacglycosides for the treatment of heart conditions was first described in the English-speaking medical literature be William Withering, in 1785, which is considered the beginning of modern therapeutics. It is used to increase cardiac contractility (it is a positive inotrope) and as an antiarrhythmicagent to control the heart rate, particularly in the irregular (and often fast) atrial fibrillation.
Digitalis is hence often prescribed for patients in atrial fibrillation, especially if they have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Digoxin was approved for heart failure in 1998 under current regulations by the Food and Drug Administration on the basis of prospective, randomized study and clinical trials. It was also approved for the control of ventricular response rate for patients with atrial fibrillation.
American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association guidelines recommend digoxin for symptomatic chronic heart failure for patients with reduced systolic function, preservation of systolic function, and/or rate control for atrial fibrillation with a rapid ventricular response. Heart Failure Society of America guidelines for heart failure provide similar recommendations. Despite its relatively recent approval by the Food and Drug Administration and the guideline recommendations, the therapeutic use of digoxin is declining in patients with heart failure—likely the result of several factors. Safety concerns regarding a proposed link between digoxin therapy and increased mortality in women may be contributing to the decline in therapeutic use of digoxin.
As the Land Rover toured the common it was very apparent that bracken was a real menace as was the birch and gorse. Not that you want to get rid of these undesirables completely but the Lynchmere Common Society’s management plan is to increase the amount of heather on the common.
So… bracken bashing, birch boshing and gorse goring goes on; they also make new earth scrapes to encourage young heather plants to grow… it works too. All this work takes time so some local breeds of cow have been brought in to help maintain the heath (never saw them but they were there, found the poo when I fell over!) Saw a lot of old heather and a lot of young heather too.
One problem that Mark showed me was another pest species for the common- Tsuga aka the hemlock conifer tree. The seeds from mature trees on Forestry Commission land have been blown into the common and are growing very freely; this will be the next problem to tackle as, if not checked, the whole common will develop into a Tsuga forest.
Here’s a little idea of the Land Rover tour, bookings can be made through me!!!!!!!!! 🙂
Back at his house Mark showed me his prized object… what is it tho’? A pile of old straw?! Think he’s lost the plot… Oh, it has something in it!… Ah yes- six, no five, universal Nash scythe blades wrapped in rye straw. Even had a label on it with the address for the park attendant at Richmond Park in London. Looks to me as if they tried one and couldn’t be bothered with the rest. Time for a beer in the pub down Hammer Lane… a night jar …
Sometime later (and a bit merrier ) Mark had to show me across the common to where my lorry was parked. Sure as hell I would have got lost otherwise but a lovely walk at night through the birch woodland and heath but… what was even better was hearing a nightjar singing, always wanted to hear one but these are rare birds, click here for the song
While down on Mark’s patch he took me to see Swan Barn Farm a National Trust property and home to the Blackdown wardening team under the leadership of Dave.
Oh my! The first thing to look at was the lovely machinery they had- a Wood-Mizer sawmill, one old MF forestry tractor and a brand new Valmet tractor with timber crane plus a whole host of other useful forestry kit.
Dave’s new project for the team is a self build home for the cider press (if my memory serves me right). The shell of the building has been made entirely from wood cut down on the farm and from Blackdown forest.
Not only that, they have even made the roof which is a jigsaw of sweet chestnut shingles- thousands of them- which are made by the staff and volunteers. Carefully cleaved and shaped they are then sorted, laid and nailed to the roof- a masterpiece.
This is actually the second building they have built. The first one was built with some outside help and now houses the long-term volunteers and what a lovely house they have, all built of home-grown timbers.
In this day and age, when it’s all take and no give, it’s good to see that some places really value their volunteers. Watching them beaver about the new build they have a real purpose to their work- to build a house to house the cider press that presses the apples from the old farm’s orchards. New trees are planted, the land is cared for, the wildlife thrives and the people are happy; everything is linked it just needs a good Captain at the helm, well done Dave. Time to go to the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum for the Wood Fair. Will blog that weekend shortly…