Celebrating 10 years and the rejuvenation of Priors Hill Copse
A decade ago, just south of the bustling port city of Southampton, in Hound Parish, a wood was woken from its 70-year slumber.
Priors Hill Copses’ history stretches hundreds of years into the past as a working and productive woodland, and back in the day it was harvested for local trade, from bakers and brick makers to builders and charcoal makers. It is believed that the unique Alder Buckthorn coupe that grows here was used to produce extra fine charcoal prized as an additive to gunpowder manufacture. Rarely seen in the south of England, this wood also has evidence that it was once used as oak coppice.
However, as time moved relentlessly forward, many of the industries that relied on this wood dwindled and so the demand for wood and woodland management also declined. The wood became over grown and many of the ancient woodland indicator plants began to disappear.
Until 10 years ago, when the Friends of Priors Hill Copse, came to the rescue!
This group, made up of volunteers including Tree Wardens, was formed to preserve the wonderful woodland and improve its biodiversity. They spent ten hard years removing and controlling holly growth which was choking existing flora and preventing the regeneration of indigenous species. The holly had restricted the fall of sunlight and warmth to the woodland floor, that had been essential to the cycle of insect and plant life in the wood. Additionally, following consultation with the Tree Council and other experts, over two hundred full sized trees were removed to improve light levels by reduction of the tree canopy. Felling the trees was not undertaken lightly and to minimise damage to the woodland floor the group extracted the felled timber by traditional heavy horse instead of machinery.
After about 5 or so years, the group then planted 1800 locally grown indigenous trees of varying heights to assist with biodiversity. This woodland strategy successfully reversed the decline caused by nearly seventy years of neglect and, almost as if celebrating the 10 years of work, a species that had not been seen for nearly 40 years, the Guelder Rose, has recently emerged!
Working closely with Hound Parish Council, the group has engaged with, and gained the support of their local community and continues to welcome new members and volunteers to the fold.
Celebrating the 10th anniversary of the group, Dick Walters, Tree Warden and Chairman Friends of Priors Hill Copse expressed his gratitude to all those who have been involved “I want to say a heartfelt thank you to each and every one of you. It’s been a great first ten years………here’s to the next ten!”