Virgin Scrubland


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On part of the extensive Northchurch common, lies a small area untouched and unloved for decades. Like a corner of a foreign field, part of a common that was exploited over the centuries for livestock grazing and chalk extraction is today virgin scrubland. It lies between Northchurch Farm and Northchurch House, along the road leading down to Northchurch, formerly known as Berkhamsted St. Mary.

The volunteers have now moved in to retake this neglected corner of the Estate. There is a need to thin out the established hawthorn scrub to allow the light to bring back the ground cover which has been destroyed by grazing deer. There may then be a return of ground nesting birds like the native pheasant which is a rare sight at Ashridge these days. It is not that long ago that tree pipits and nightjars frequented the common.

Last Thursday the heavy staff brigade arrived with their machines, with Caleb, Pete and Ben taking out the large material. It was mostly coppiced, but a couple of trees were pollarded, which is a welcome sight considering there are so few new pollards in Ashridge. Then the light brigade in the form of the volunteering army arrived in record numbers to collect and burn the scrub. Some of the brushwood from the felled trees was taken out to fashion the now familiar dead -hedge, along the access road to Northchurch farm. The Estate Office arrived in force, with Emily, Laurence and Susie giving thanks and seasonal greetings, and some mulled wine, whilst Christmas foods were exchanged amongst the army. The area is far from cleared so the army will no doubt return in the New Year.

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