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Wildlife and trees and plants at Hucking Estate

Ten threatened bird species have been recorded at Hucking including grey partridge, turtle dove, skylark, song thrush, linnet, bullfinch and corn bunting.

Twenty-one species of butterfly have also been identified including the marbled white which had been absent from Hucking for many years, the silver washed fritillary and the purple hairstreak. The latter are often seen in late afternoon or early evening during July, feeding on the aphid honey dew on mature oaks.

Bats such as daubenton’s, brown long eared and natterer’s inhabit the Ancient Semi-Natural Wodland using two old disused chalk pits to roost.

At the time of its purchase in 1997, the Hucking Estate consisted of 180 acres of woodland and 390 acres of arable land. Since then, in close consultation with local people, the Trust has embarked upon a ground-breaking restoration project to convert a portion of the arable land back into native grassland, and plant another section with native trees so that around 45 per cent of the original 390 acres is returned to woodland.

(Photo: WTML)

Having planted 180,000 trees over 185 acres to create new woodland areas in 1998 and 1999, the Trust embarked on another phase of tree planting at Hucking in 2010 to create a further 74 acres for completion by 2015. Tree species include pedunculate oak, hornbeam, silver birch, sweet chestnut, yew, small-leaved lime, whitebeam and wild cherry; whilst woody shrub species include common hawthorn, hazel, dogwood, field maple, blackthorn, and wayfaring.

The ancient woodland areas contain a mix of oak standards and mixed broadleaved coppice areas of hornbeam, field maple, ash and hazel, with some areas of pure sweet chestnut. There are also some fine specimens of small leaved lime and mature beech trees within the woodland which are approximately 200 years old. The main shrub species are hawthorn, elder and hazel, while bluebell dominate the ground cover along with dog’s mercury, wood anemone, red campion and foxglove, which are most conspicuous during the spring and summer months. Other flowers to look out for are lords and ladies, early purple orchid, primrose, rosebay willow herb and yellow archangel.  Where the soils are thinner over the chalk on the valley sides, there is a greater amount of ash, field maple and yew, with dog’s mercury in the ground flora. Patches of bracken, bramble and ivy are also dotted around the site.

Some of the semi-natural open ground habitat which escaped cultivation in the past has become rich in grass varieties which support a high number of invertebrates and bird species. Plants here include meadow vetchling and lady’s bedstraw.