Thursday 10 January 2019

Up North Down South

Last time I headed down into the South Downs, this time I headed up into the North Downs.  Regrettably it's another spot where the Devil misbehaved. This time, when he was living on the Devil's Jumps in nearby Churt, he managed to disturb his neighbour, Thor, to such a degree with his leaping from one hill summit to another that the God of Thunder, in exasperation, scooped up a handful of earth and lobbed it at him. You can still see the results of his handiwork in the circular dip left at the Devil's Punchbowl in Surrey.

The area used to be bisected by the A3 running down to Portsmouth, but since 2011 a tunnel has run underneath and the area has been restored to its natural beauty. There's lots of heathland and conifers mixed in with the deciduous woodlands and it's an important site for adders. This is Razor Strop fungus which grows on Silver Birch. Apart from its obvious use in the name I've read that the underside can be used as a microporus plaster for those who are into bushcraft. Seeing as I won't even camp I think this knowledge will never be put to the test!

A dastardly deed was committed here on 24th September 1786. An unnamed sailor was home on shoreleave when he met three fellows at a nearby pub. Having been paid, he treated his new "friends" to ale and they kindly repaid him by stealing his goods and cutting his throat. Edward Lonegon, Michael Casey and James Marshall were caught in an inn in Hampshire trying to sell his clothes. They were found guilty six months later and were hung. Their corpses were gibbeted on the nearby hill and remained there for three years until a storm brought the whole structure down. It was replaced by the granite Celtic cross by Sir William Erle in 1851 in an attempt to calm the fears of the locals and dispel the tales of hauntings.

Being a bod very much interested in the idea of sustainability and the circular economy I was interested to read that the National Trust has started to use coppicing for the sweet chestnut trees again. It's been a practice that has been dying out, but the value of being able to grow renewable wood locally and then use it locally for many items including fence posts and rails has been realised. Many of the stools outlive the non coppiced trees. Any wood left over is used for charcoal making.

This sculptural oak bench is the work of Walter Bailey and is called Xylem which apparently are the photomicrographs of charcoal revealing hidden vessels....well quite! Liked the form of it anyhow!

With more cute wild ponies to finish with. Having seen/heard of them being present as three NT sites locally to me I can only think this way of managing the land over the Winter months is the policy in my part of the world.



  1. Watched a gently interesting programme on the New Forest last night, they used ponies and to a lesser extent cattle to maintain the flora with the animals selective grazing. Horses, in particular, have been in the landscape for so long that it makes sense they are 'sympathetic' grazers and will have developed alongside the forests.

  2. The ponies are a lovely sight! Another interesting trip-thanks for sharing.

  3. Using ponies to keep vegetation down can have negative consequences which have not been addressed by the National Trust. They brought them to Cornwall to grave around Men a Tol and Boskednan Circle. Obviously, ponies don't understand the sacred nature of stone age monuments and use them instead as scratching posts and general meeting places. When we visited Men a Tol last August, the place looked like a public toilet. The other difficulty is that both ponies and cattle who used the stones as scratching posts can damage the stones, something which has been brought to the attention of the National Trust and English Heritage but their response has been deafening by its silence.

  4. I was interested to hear about the coppicing. That is good to hear. Yuck, not sure I want a mushroom as a plaster! That actually combineds two of my phobias into one almighty!

  5. Thank you for the lovely pictures

    Julie xxxxxx


Not going to the art gallery.

 Mr GBT didn't really want to visit an art gallery whilst we were in the Midlands last month....he's a clever fellow though and dist...