In An Old House, by Peter & Sally Varlow. Lewes, Pomegranite Press. 2018
Anyone who appreciates timber-framed buildings in the Weald of Sussex will realise what a significant impact the making of the building had on the local woodland. This book explores the ins and outs, the nooks and crannies, the joints and trusses that went into the construction of this particular house 500 years ago. The immediate impact of felling of trees in the winter of 1474-3 would have denuded quite a lot of woodland. The bare facts to construct this building included 143 trees (weighing 27 green tonnes) as well as 233 small timbers, held together with 619 joints. The joints included 440 mortices and tenons and 138 lap joints. All this wood could be sawn from a block of woodland about 50 acres in size. The tree expert Oliver Rackham estimates that such a block would produce 100 suitable trees over a 50 year period. This is a wonderful book about a typical house in the Weald near Lewes. It draws together the history of the various owners, the local trades and how the house was created in the landscape: a masterpiece in every sense.
TO carry out a Biodiversity Audit of any parish it is necessary to have an understanding about the range of habitats and species in the parish. That is what informs how nature conservation can be progressed through the parish in perpetuity. It is a living document supported by regular updates on species found etc. The stimulus for such an audit is often the requirement of the local planning authority (LPA) for parishes to address the climate change emergency that many parishes have signed up to. To date over 400 authorities and councils in the UK have committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030, i.e. ten years left. If your parish is affected, you need a Bio Audit.
The latest iteration the Bio Audit Crowhurst Parish Council (14 May 2020 – 124pp) reviews the Habitat Assets, the Species Assets, and then sets out the Conservation Assets. It was a community exercise, with over 30 people supplying data, and with inputs from RSPB, SWT, EA, ESCC, AONB Unit and local and regional groups, and all this pulled together by local naturalist and expert ecologist Dr. John Feltwell. It highlighted ancient woodlands and old meadows in the AONB, 800 year old hedgerows and 1000 year old trees, and ponds (70 to date). It has 78 colour photographs and 37 planning maps. The list of flora and fauna was documented, with many rare and endangered. The effects of habitat loss and flooding were included. Gaps in field data coverage and what people could be doing now were recommended. The search for further evidence to inform nature conservation in the parish now has a definitive factual baseline that will assist understanding local climate change effects.