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March 2022

March 2022
Volunteers spent a bright, sunny morning on the East flank of Earl’s Hill clearing bramble in order to increase the habitat of the grayling butterfly. The butterfly, also known as the rock grayling, has suffered a serious decline in numbers in recent years.

February 2022

February 2022

After days clearing the third coupe, we planted approximately 200 hazel, oak, hawthorn, rowan and holly whips. Many hands made light work 🙂

January 2022

January 2022

Thanks to a great group of volunteers, many hands made light work of path clearance and stile repair on a mild morning in early January.

At the beginning…..
At the end, looking up the hill.
The stile before…
Starting to clear the path
And at the end, looking down the hill.
And after!

September 2021

September 2021
In September we worked on the ant hill meadow. We plan to continue clearing the meadow during the coming months.
Email: if you would like more information. We would love more volunteers!
The meadow (the last one that you walk through as you go round the back of the hill towards the scree slope) has suffered under lockdown. Two years of reduced work parties and grazing have allowed bramble to encroach, with gorse, broom and saplings now growing through. We need to act quickly to restore this very special habitat, home to rare spring flowers, butterflies, lizards, birds and the ants themselves.
We cannot use a mechanical flail to cut over the ant hills, so have begun clearing the bramble by hand and rolling it downhill to rot. In Spring, the sheep will be able to get into the cut areas and nibble back the young bramble suckers, which they love. It will take about three years to restore the meadow completely.

Interesting videos

Interesting videos

With its fascinating history and special role within the county, it’s no surprise that Pontesford hill has been the subject of various news clips and short films over the years.

Here you can find links taking you to videos including a documentary film showing local school children honing their skills as natural historians, a clip from BBC radio Shropshire about the success of the locals securing the future of the hill and a few pieces of camera trap footage courtesy of the Shopshire Wildlife Trust showing the diversity of species found on and around the hill.

BBC Radio Shropshire video about how the local people saved the hill
Shropshire Wildlife Trust footage of the wildlife on Pontesford Hill

AGM and new officers

The Friends of Pontesford Hill have managed to hold a “virtual AGM” process and have elected two new officers.

We owe an enormous “thank you” to Christopher Cooke and Brian Simmonds, the departing Chair and Treasurer for their years of work. Hopefully one day soon we will be able to thank them in person.

We welcome our new Chair, Quentin Shaw and Treasurer, John Turford. Our Secretary remains Richard Otto.

In these times it is more important than ever that we keep an up-to-date distribution list of freinds, and our first task will be to try to sort this out.

Enjoy the Hill. Please be thoughtful about your dogs and their waste.

Welcome back, but please remember that dogs should be kept on a lead.

The car park is open once again and we have seen a massive increase in visitors. You will notice how much the Hill benefited from a bit of a rest.

In particular, there is no dog poo or poo bags in evidence. Please try to keep it this way:

On the car park please “bag and bin” dog poo (there is a bin by the main gate).

On the paths please ‘stick and flick’: move poo off the paths into undergrowth by flicking with a stick, a stone, or the side of your boot.

Please never put down a poo bag or hang it on a branch “to collect on the way back”. Too many people forget. Poo bags themselves are an environmental risk.

Please also remember that UK Govt Social Distancing rules advise that dogs should be kept on leads in public spaces. These rules are still in force.

Some great stuff to watch while on lock-down:

Stewart Edmunds of SWT used a camera trap to capture this amazing footage of wildlife on the Hill last year. Have a look to see some unexpected species just where you go for a walk (and you can also enjoy the beautiful views of the hill in summer: not long to wait now):

Brian Simmonds found this historic educational documentary on Facebook: Harlescott Grange Primary School children on the Hill in, I think, the early ’60s. You will recognize some of the individual trees, but the views have changed. These remarkable children will now be in their 60s or 70s. I wonder if we could identify them and invite them back to the Hill?

The Management Plan

The trees on Pontesford Hill had been relatively neglected for decades when the Wildlife Trust took over. It will take many years to bring the woods back to optimum habitat. This is the Trust’s Management Plan:

Management Plan Pontesford Hill 2016 – 21

1. What have we got? What is our vision?

Pontesford Hill is 26 hectares and is owned Freehold by SWT.

Pontesford Hill is primarily a wooded hillside with a number of other features within this wooded structure. There are two Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAMs) within the site, Lower Camp hillfort and The Cross Dyke at the top of the hill. The rest of the site has no designations other than woodland that may require licences from FC for any felling works. Access is restricted, a bridleway and ‘bulldozer track’ circle the bottom of the hill but the bridleway is narrow and very muddy during the winter. Woodland on the site varies from pure conifer to predominantly mixed broadleaf.

In the long term the site will have an area of acid grassland on the summit with views across Shropshire. The hill will have a fringe of broadleaf, native woodland managed as coppice with standards and/or continuous cover woodland providing a source of timber and a valuable habitat for wildlife particularly dormice already present on nearby Earl’s Hill. The SAMs will be covered with a grassy sward easily visible and interpreted by the visiting public.

History and cultural features – For more information see the article written for the SCT in 1974 – The woodland on the east side of the Hill is very different in nature to other wooded areas as it was planted in the mid 1800s and may have been planted as much as a landscape feature as a resource for timber. It should be noted that the East and west of the Hill were in two different parishes and underwent very different development following inclosure in the early 1800s. The west side of the Hill was still grazing land until mid 1900s. After this date conifer plantations were planted and the abandonment of grazing allowed other nearby trees and woodland to spread.

2 Features

  1. Conifer woodland – primarily Scots and Lodgepole Pine but Douglas fir and larch make up a narrow strip on lower ground (1a)
  2. Mixed woodland – Dominated by sycamore many of which are large multi-stemmed specimens
  3. Mixed woodland – dominated by a variety of native broadleaf with a substantial number of large mature Douglas Fir scattered through the canopy
  4. Mixed broadleaf woodland – Oak, Beech and Sycamore canopy trees with some hazel coppice understory in places.
  5. Lower Camp hillfort SAM
  6. Cross Dyke SAM – some bracken and bramble encroachment
  7. Bulldozer track – vehicle width stoned track
  8. Pennywort and Cheilosa semifaciata
  9. Car Park – to be resurfaced and enlarged
  10. Interpretation – undergoing development to include a large welcome panel with map at the car park and some small post mounted panels at the SAMs
  11. Access –bridleway runs from the road at the car park around the east of the hill whilst a footpath runs up and over the spine of the hill. There are two other smaller footpaths near the Hillfort.
  12. Parish boundary mature larch avenue

3 Optimum Condition

  1. Restore acid grassland where identified as suitable, create mixed native broadleaf woodland where acid grassland recreation is unfeasible or unsuitable. Also create and maintain viewpoint(s) and protect SAM (see 6). Retained woodland improved for a range of birds, insects and mammals such as dormice nearby on Earl’s Hill by long rotation coppice (15-20 years)
  2. Mixed broadleaf woodland with an understory of coppiced hazel and other native shrubs (long rotation coppice with standards). Canopy a mix of species including sycamore, oak and ash. Woodland improved for a range of birds, insects and mammals such as dormice present nearby on Earl’s Hill
  3. Mixed native broadleaf with the occasional conifer. Understorey of native broadleaf shrubs. Woodland improved for a range of birds, insects and mammals such as dormice present nearby on Earl’s Hill
  4. Mixed native broadleaf woodland, oak and sycamore canopy species. Understorey of native broadleaf shrubs and hazel coppice on long rotation.
  5. Open, short grassland sward across the majority of the SAM with a scatter of mature native broadleaf trees. No erosion of the sward.
  6. Open, short grassland sward across the majority of the SAM. No erosion of the sward.
  7. Open, sunny ride encouraging flowering plants and insects where possible. Care must be taken to maintain suitable conditions for pennywort and its associated hoverfly.
  8. Maintain dappled shade where pennywort and hoverfly are present
  9. Maintain suitable surface and prevent  inappropriate use of the car park with suitable barriers dividing the space
  10. Maintain interpretation panels in suitable condition. Interpretation should be low key and appropriate to what is perceived by the local community and visitors as a, predominantly, natural area.
  11. Access to be maintained in a suitable and safe condition. Further and/or enhanced access is not seen as appropriate for this site. Keep as natural as possible ie logs for benches along bulldozer track.
  12. Veteran trees retained for as long as possible.

4 Management Prescriptions

    1. Clear fell majority of conifer plantation, remove brash and cordwood, and introduce grazing. Retain some ‘gateway’ trees near the location of the current stile to mark footpath route and act as historic features (Gone to Earth film).
    1.  Fell and replant coupes of native broadleaf trees within retained woodland.
    1. Create an area of hazel coppice to create views to southwest of Bromlow Callow, etc and create a diverse flower rich woodland edge (1b). nest box scheme?
  2. Manage in approx. 15 coupes (50mx50m) as coppice with standards to create more light. Plant with oak, hazel and other appropriate native trees and shrubs. Retain mature sycamore specimens where appropriate whilst removing beech and conifer.
    1. Arrange inspection of sycamore specimens with severe rot in trunk. Manage as appropriate (coppice/pollard/veteran)
  3. Gradual removal of non-native shrubs, eg rhododendron and laurel. Further investigation and surveys required to assess light levels and species diversity of the woodland to inform future management. Some, light touch, management may be proposed in the short term. Survey for dormouse. Assess/research cultural significance of woodland and its planting.?
  4. Selective thinning of non-native trees, beech, conifer, sycamore, to favour native broadleaf. Re-coppice hazel as appropriate and where light is sufficient. Plant with native broadleaf where light levels allow.
  5. Fell and treat young trees and scrub to prevent regrowth. Retain significant mature trees. Regular, annual cutting of bracken bramble and grass.
  6. Annual clearance of bramble and bracken and strim grass.
  7. The track itself should be kept clear and well maintained. Annual cutting of encroaching vegetation with flail and/or strimmer and volunteers. Selective felling of adjacent trees where this would allow more light to a wider ride to benefit flowers and insects. Selective felling should avoid opening areas of pennywort to too much light, retain dappled shade..
  8. Regular surveys of pennywort and associated hoverfly (Cheilosa semifaciata) (2 years?) to check population and attempt to define ideal conditions.
  9. Maintain surface to acceptable standard. Place and maintain obstructions (eg large logs and tree trunks) to divide car park and prevent unsociable behaviour such as ‘doughnuts’ in cars.
  10. Interpretation should be low key, primarily focussed on the car park. Maintain any signage mounted in the car park and small ‘post panels’ on waymark and fingerposts.
  11. Maintain access tracks, Public Rights of Way and associated furniture such as gates and stiles at suitable standards for required use. Enhanced access such as benches may be appropriate in limited amounts on the ‘Bulldozer track’ and footpath to the summit; in all cases these should be of natural materials (logs and boulders) to fit in with the location.
    1. Lay the hedge adjacent to the bridleway as you leave the car park to allow light into the woodland. Lay hedge over 5 years to reduce impact.
  12. Fell dangerous trees next to the footpath. Retain other mature trees where possible. Veteran tree care may retain some trees into the medium term. Assess the potential for replanting this avenue/shelterbelt feature.

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

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.