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Stock update 8th September

Stock update 8th September

The sheep on the hill are “Hill Radnors”. They have furry light-brown faces like teddy bears. They are at work grazing down brambles and scrub. Please look after them by keeping your dog on a lead.

The cows on the meadows at the back of the hill are a mix of shaggy Highlands and black Dexters. Despite their fierce-looking horns, these are small, docile cattle. Please look after them by keeping your dog on a lead.

What to look out for in Spring on the Hill

What to look out for in Spring on the Hill

The snowdrops are over, and what a wonderful display they have been. So what should we expect to see next? Well, the bluebells are coming through and will soon be flowering. Their pointed leaves push through the leaf litter on the woodland floor and then grow rapidly on reaching the light. Bluebells, along with wood anemones, need light so there is always a race to finish flowering before the canopy closes over. The white star-shaped flowers of the wood anemone (sometimes called Windflower) open up in sunlight and close when the sun isn’t shining.

Primroses are another token of spring. The name comes from ‘prima rosa’ – the first flower of the year. They were Disraeli’s favourite flower and on Primrose Day (19th April) a posy of primroses is placed on his grave. Most primroses have two types of flowers on separate plants. One kind is ‘pin-eyed’ which has a long visible stigma with the stamens hidden below in the tube. The other is ‘thrum-eyed’ which has long stamens visible with the stigma hidden below. This strategy prevents self-pollination.

Other woodland plants are ramsons (wild garlic) and dog’s mercury. Both create large swathes of plants but have slightly different soil requirements. Wild garlic, with its white flowers and distinctive aroma grows in moist woods on rich soils while dog’s mercury, with its separate male and female flowers, prefers well-drained soil.

Following on from the early spring flowers will be violets, red campion, yellow archangel and foxglove. In the lower Anthill Meadow cowslips will be followed by Common Spotted orchids. The Common Spotted orchid is distinguished by having transversely elongated purple spots on its leaves.

The grassland on Earl’s Hill is renowned for its spring ephemerals. These are warmth-loving winter annuals which germinate in the autumn, pass the winter in the vegetative state, then flower, set seed and die in the following spring or early summer. Plants such as early hair-grass, small cudweed, changing forget-me-not and shepherd’s cress thrive on the eastern and southern slopes of the Hill.illHHill

In May and June botanical surveys will take place to assess the condition of certain areas of grassland on Earl’s Hill.

Birds: The months of April and May herald the return of summer migrants that nest on the reserve. Look and listen out for the small Pied Flycatcher down by the Habberley Brook. Also Redstarts, Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and the Chiff Chaff with its recognisable call.

Of course, spring is the time for lambing, so by mid-April we should see lambs gambolling around – cue to take extra care when walking your dogs!


Friends of Pontesford and Earl’s Hill.


Help on the Hill

Help on the Hill

Earthworm Blitz 9th/10th April 2016


Over the last few months we have surveyed Pontesford Hill for plants, birds, mammals, moths and butterflies. Now it is time to turn our attention to Earthworms! On Saturday 9th April Dr. Charlie Bell from Preston Montfort Field Studies centre will lead a “blitz” looking for these annelids in various parts of the reserve to compare the species found in the conifer woodlands of Pontesford Hill with those down in the moist mixed woodland, the high acid grassland etc. Samples will be collected from leaf litter and from small trenches a spit deep. The worms found on Saturday will be placed in alcohol to kill and preserve them for examination at Preston Montfort the following day.

All are welcome to attend and lend a hand. If you are planning to attend this event please let David Morgan (e-mail ; mobile 07800 506157) know by Thursday 31st March at the latest. Meet at Pontesford Car Park at 10am Saturday 9th April. Those wishing to attend Preston Montfort FSC on Sunday 10th please make that clear when responding. There is normally a £5 charge per head  for using their equipment which on this occasion will be paid by the Friends of Pontesford Hill but we will need to do so in advance.

We plan to finish not later than 4pm on Saturday but those who can only stay for the morning will still be welcome. If coming to the reserve please bring suitable footwear (wellington boots recommended) and outdoor clothing. Bring a packed lunch if staying all day.  A hand lens might be useful to examine live specimens if anyone cares to bring one along. On Sunday those staying all day should again bring a packed lunch but tea/coffee will be available.

Don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to see how many of the 27 UK species live in the soil of our hill!”


The First Friends of Pontesford Hill – Work Party 12th December 2015

On the morning of the first ever Pontesford Hill work party I was greeted by a veil of rain as I opened the minibus door just before 10am. It had rained all night, and on the drive down from Shrewsbury,  the forecast was for more of the same.

Despite my pessimism and to my surprise I was joined, very soon, by a hardy band of smiling and determined volunteers most armed with their own selection of tools to supplement those I had brought. I was forced to send Mike Mortimer home as the sound of his coughing and wheezing belied his obvious enthusiasm. Still, five of us headed off up the Eastern bridleway determined to widen it for walkers and horse riders and open it up for vehicle access in order to extract firewood in the near future.

The rain proved less dramatic than forecast but the winds did get stronger as we worked. None of this dampened the enthusiasm of the group and we worked through to lunchtime clearing the whole length of the track with hand tools and a scrubcutter. Young trees, bramble and holly were cleared along with overhanging branches. Everyone went home with the warm glow of success for a job well done. A big thankyou from me to all those that helped.

The Friends of Pontesford Hill work parties will take place on the second Saturday of the month from 10am meeting at the car park. Tools and training are provided so if you want to join us contact me or The Friends of Pontesford Hill. The weather isn’t always that bad!


Clive Dean – SWT Reserves Officer South

A news item with images

A news item with images

Autumn arrives on the hill

fungusWalking on the track earlier this week I was delighted to see that many of the fallen branches which form such a rich habitat for the Hill’s animals are now sprouting fungus.

This is an example of….