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December News

An update from Lindy – our Tour Guide Manager and Conservationist

As the final month of the year is here, it’s a good time to reflect on what 2022 has brought to nature on Hush Heath Estate.

An unusual year for weather when a relatively mild winter and spring was followed by extreme temperatures in summer. With some days when the thermometer was hovering in the upper 30’s Celsius and little rainfall for several weeks, our vines and apples had to dig deep with their roots to extract moisture from reserves underground.

This was also the case in our wildflower meadows and ancient woodland. The meadows were less colourful but still provided nectar for our thriving bee population. Trees and undergrowth relied on their canopy to shelter them from drying out completely. Fallen leaves from previous autumns covered the ground and created a blanket which in turn slowed down the evaporation of underlying moisture.

The acorn crop this year is amazing and our squirrel population can be seen performing their usual gymnastic displays as they gather these nutrient-packed nuts which are essential to their diet. Our deer herds are also very fond of acorns and these can make up as much as 25% of their diet in autumn. They are packed with protein and, like all wildlife, deer are fattening-up before the winter.

During this last month on the calendar we can still expect to see some fabulous scenery in the clear crisp mornings and as dusk approaches in early afternoon, the gathering birds and woodland sounds vibrate as the daytime species prepare for their long night ahead. On the 21st of December, the shortest day of the year, there is less than eight hours of daylight which is a challenge to our native birds who need to consume at least 25% of their body weight to survive. The berries and fruits still available in the forest, plus our windfall apples which may still be in the orchards are therefore crucial. Look upwards as you walk along our trails. At this time it is a treat to spot mistletoe with its white berries hanging from trees, holly berries and ivy.

The ponds which are so clean and host many amphibians and invertebrates in the warmer months, are also occasionally home to frogs in the winter. Those who do not vacate the water to hibernate in leaves and wood piles may bury themselves in thick mud at the bottom of our ponds. It is warmer there than on the surface and, as long as oxygen is still present, they may spend their sleeping months sheltering deep below.

Return to The View as dusk falls and enjoy a drink to celebrate another fantastic year at our estate and look forward to all the discoveries to come in 2023. We wish all our visitors a very happy holiday season.

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