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Knotweed Stacks: November 2020 © Amanda Jobson

They knew it as ‘The Oller’

As we come to the end of 2020, Covid has made all our lives very uncertain; it has forced everyone to consider what life is about. For some of our local community they’ve been planting vegetables and fruit to feed their families, growing more plants for wildlife.
Amanda Jobson writes about a place that brings her back down to earth.

I grew up near many woodlands climbing trees and discovering nature. There are many beautiful but neglected areas here in Hastings. I went up to Speckled Wood in Ore, two years ago interested in volunteering, conservation and meeting a community.

Trying to find the wood was a different task as the woodlands stretch 12.5 miles across the Ore valley and are the size of five football pitches. Frederick Road runs on the North side and on the South side Old London Road, with immediate access from Ore Village Green. You cannot see the woods from Old London Road, as there are benches at the top and high shrubs.

Over the years local action groups have taken to protecting the wood. It was named Speckled Wood in 2005 after the brown butterfly frequently seen here in the wood. The locals knew it as ‘The Oller’ back in the day, sending their kids out to play all day with open land to utilise. There are now many beautiful trees here – medlar, blackthorn, hazel, elder, silver birch, oak, and lots of sycamores.

Old water tank, now used for wildlife.
© Amanda Jobson

As you walk along the edges you can find brick foundations dating back to the Great War when injured World War 1 veterans were directed here for recovery, given allotment land by a wealthy landowner Joseph Peddlesden to grow food with pig and chicken smallholdings. My son retrieved a huge old water tank, buried in the stream here, there are metal casings scattered around the wood like utensils you would find in any good antique junk market but with holes in. As you go deeper into the valley there are more brick foundations, galvanised roofs, old outbuildings stacked under trees; steeper into the valley are badger sets, foxes’ habitats, fungi and much birdsong away from the busy sounds.

This is a peaceful and magical place to find in the over developed world we live in today. I joined Ore Community Land Trust, as I wanted to be part of a growing number of individuals concerned about nature, conserving a wood and being part of a community. The trust owns two plots in the woodland, one side has areas of invasive Japanese Knotweed, which is managed by volunteers through the seasons, summer and winter they clear and burn the knotweed eradicating the bulbs from regrowing. The other side has become a community forest garden with a small pond, vegetable plots and fruit trees, all vital for nature and a community to enjoy.

Jo, a mother of 2 children, says, “I love being in the woods, it’s so peaceful and there’s always something different to see. It takes me away from the humdrum of a busy life.” She is now training to be a Forest School teacher.

John, another volunteer, brings his two collie dogs to the woods and is concerned about fly-tipping, organising pick-ups by the council on the edge of the woodland; he comes here to “see his friends”. There are now newly planted trees in the wood donated by Woodland Trust – their campaign is to get communities planting trees, to lock up carbon, stop flooding, they call it the ‘climate fight back’.

We have now planted over 30 trees of rowan, wild cherry, silver birch and an oak donated by a local in the wood. Our fundraising efforts have enabled us to share this community garden, plant a small fruit orchard and fruit bushes, thinking of everyone in this bigger picture. Where young hands can come and pick fruit, sit down, listen and learn about nature. With families now volunteering here for well being, this growing community can offer future events, planting seeds, teaching future generations the importance of woodlands, passing on information, from a small seed in the ground, of the pollinating bees, to the growth of these yielding fruits; to perennial plants feeding nature in early spring.

The journey of life here in this vital wooded garden brings positive solutions, there are many good people with plans to grow wildflowers through networking organisations like the Northern FlowerHouse spending time growing wildflowers in towns and cities to encourage others to support nature.

One of our young volunteers enjoying our new cabin in the wood which is beneficial to all our community volunteers. © Amanda Jobson

Networking and connecting with other like-minded communities is valuable and we hope this can be realised by Hastings Borough Council and all the growers, gardeners and neighbouring areas, regenerating with wildflowers in this beautiful part of the country. This would enhance nature and encourage local schools by utilising their green verges and spaces with wildflowers, which can benefit a community two fold.

As we move towards Spring, we look forward to a greener, healthier community, making positive changes together. Our friendly volunteer sessions will be back soon on Thursdays, 10am to 1pm.

Please see our facebook page for updates and news! For more information visit the Ore Community Land Trust website and Facebook page.

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Thank you for your continued support!

Posted 18:43 Thursday, Jan 21, 2021 In: Nature

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