Sunday 16th December dawned with surprisingly lovely weather for our annual winter celebration of bonfire and baked potatoes. Eighteen of us gathered on the small patch of sunny south facing chalk grassland of Knepp Close, sheltered from the breeze by the surrounding trees. A small amount of work was done cutting down some of the encroaching tree seedlings but the main focus was to just enjoy being together and eating and playing and enjoying the bonfire. The sausages, beans and baked potatoes went down well, supplimented by cakes and toasted marshmallows and cups of tea and coffee and soft drinks for the children. It was lovely to sit and chat and bask in the sunshine and celebrate the year’s work and friendships.
This small patch of chalk grassland has not yet been grown over by the surrounding trees, mainly ash and sycamore. The grass is longer here as it is not grazed by the sheep but it is still good with knapweeds, marjoram, birdsfoot trefoil and other chalk grassland plants and plenty of anthills. The butterflies found here in the summer are various skippers and whites, common blues, holly blues, green hairstreaks, red admiral and commas etc and various browns.The group has worked hard over the years to keep it clear of trees but we didn’t manage to do any work on it last year as there is so much work to do elsewhere on the local nature reserve. This quickly showed with brambles and ash seedlings moving in and the seedlings were already two metres high. The three volunteers who often come out mid-week have brush cut and raked it in recent weeks to try and ensure that it keeps it’s grassland identity and the species which live there now. The surrounding wooded slopes would quickly colonise the grassland without human intervention and another piece of valuable chalk grassland with it’s attendant specialist plants and insects would be lost.