Spring is bursting out across East Devon

Blackbire. Picture: John Keele

Blackbire. Picture: John Keele - Credit: John Keele

As the cold weather made way for warmer temperatures, so Diana East, of Sidmouth Arboretum describes changes in the hedgerows.

Ornamental cherry in blossom in Millford Road

Ornamental cherry in blossom in Millford Road - Credit: Archant

What a challenging couple of months this has been for wildlife.

Snow the depth of which we haven’t seen for 10 years or more brought the fieldfares to our gardens in early March, then it all melted.

One very wet day in late March, I put a foot wrong in the muddy eastern slopes under Muttersmoor and had mud seeping over into my socks!

We had been looking at the lower slopes next to the golf course where Tilhill forestry have been harvesting the sweet chestnut timber.

Jay. Picture: John Keele

Jay. Picture: John Keele - Credit: John Keele


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The logs piled up by Peak Hill Road looked like oak, but when it dries they look quite different.

It is lovely timber with a grain pattern which is fairly coarse and great for tables or worktops.

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Traditionally, sweet chestnut was used for coppicing in woodlands and made into fencing, rails, and hurdles.

The seeds seldom ripen in our climate but are eaten by jays and mice.

Hawthorn blossom.

Hawthorn blossom. - Credit: Archant

By the end of March, the rural hedgerows will have been cut by machine and forestry and woodland operations largely come to a halt as it is illegal to ‘intentionally or recklessly disturb any wild bird listed on Schedule One while it is nest building, or at a nest containing eggs or young’, with some exceptions noted on the RSPB website.

In our gardens, the birds are singing and actively looking for nesting material. So don’t tidy up your ground too much as those small dried grasses and twigs will be taken away by blackbird or blue tit to a suitable hedge or tree.

Already the bees are out and about looking for nectar, so for us the longer days and warmth brings the pleasure of blossom – first on the prunus species, ornamental cherry, in Millford Road .

Blackthorn in the hedgerows. And soon after the hawthorns – less poison in the thorns, and an under-used small garden tree as some varieties hold their berries well through the winter months, as can be seen in the tree at Sidford churchyard.

Woodpecker. Picture: John Keele

Woodpecker. Picture: John Keele - Credit: John Keele

The cycle of wildlife is initiated – flowers and birds and bees produce the autumn berries so essential for the birds.

So whether it’s the sharp blackthorn or the pretty hawthorn of the hedgerows – they provide favoured nesting sites for robins, and song thrushes, amongst others.

The season is late this year as the trees hold back in cold weather but May should bring some dry paths and make bird watching a pleasure.

East Devon Countryside Service has several bird watching events so why not visit http://eastdevon.gov.uk/countryside/countryside-events ?

Fieldfares in the snow. Picture: Diana East

Fieldfares in the snow. Picture: Diana East - Credit: Archant

Robin. Picture: John Keele

Robin. Picture: John Keele - Credit: John Keele

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