Pepperbox Hill is managed by the National Trust and our first task of the season was clearing scrub around Juniper. There was some concern at the reserve because the Juniper (an important and increasingly rare species) was being swamped by hawthorn and privet etc. Even more worrying was the fact that there were no seedlings and small plants – almost all the plants on the reserve being in their middle age.
I have been working at Blackmoor Copse (mainly during the autumn and winter months) since 1990. There is a programme of coppicing using various cycles – five year, seven year etc. – to encourage the ground flora, which in turn maintains a diverse fauna. The reserve is also managed to provide favourable conditions for the resident dormice.
Coppicing entails cutting the hazel to ground level to allow the plants to send up fresh new growth (which actually also prolongs the life of the plants). Unwanted small trees such as ash and birch are removed at the same time. In some cases the mature trees, usually oak, are reduced in number. In past times the coppiced material would have been used as posts, stakes and in hedge laying, hurdle making etc..
I have collected succulents since my childhood – with a break in my teenage years. I used to house the collection in two greenhouses and then bought two more with the aim of growing a collection of ordinary plants in one and tomatoes etc. in the other – however the succulents have taken over these too!
Because of heavy work commitments all the plants do tend to get a bit neglected and I have given a lot away over the last few years – however I plan to start collecting plants again this year.