Saturday, 6 January 2018

Brighter Lime Tree Avenue

As we stagger into 2018, it is time to give Lime Tree Avenue a good trim. This time I was working in a group with Brighter Uckfield.  As always, they are doing the town proud and there was a great turn out.  This is just as well. Since last February, when we last did the work, there had been plenty of growth.

The trees that make up the avenue are hybrids between Large-leaved and Small-Leaved Limes.  They are prone to producing "epicormic growths" (suckers), which both:
  • drain energy from the main trunk
  • produce a mini forest at ground level. 
This is why they must be trimmed off.  The photos below show a before and after.

Before and After - epicormic growths (suckers) have been removed.
That was one of the easier trees. I just had to clip over it with stout shears and the job was done.  Some are trickier though.

Stripping away leaf litter to get at older suckers.
The last tree I did had got sneaky. Over the years leaf litter had built up round the suckers, which - hidden from the attentions of volunteers - had grown thick and dense. I had to rake out years of composted leaf litter and then cut off as many stems as I could, one-by-one.

Fungi - about 7 inches across - Jan 2018
Although it was winter there were plenty of signs of life. Lime leaves rot very quickly and make an excellent mulch - although we appreciate it more on the earth than the path! This process relies on fungi and there was a big one near the trees.

White-lipped Snails with their "doors" closed - Jan 2018
While raking the leaf litter from between the suckers, I found several White-lipped Snails. They are small (about 1/2 inch) and are coloured either brown and white or amber. At the moment, the shells are closed with a little white door to keep them safe until they are ready to emerge. In our garden, they are eaten by Thrushes - but I haven't seen a Thrush in the Avenue yet.

Lime Tree Avenue is important to Uckfield for a number of reasons.  It is a real connection with the past. These wonderful old trees are one of the few remaining connections with Uckfield House. If you look on the Memories of Uckfield Facebook group (login required), you will see many stories concerning local people's experiences of Lime Tree Avenue.

Lime Tree Avenue acts as a "vertical nature reserve" that provides a home and food for many creatures. While we were working, we saw Robins, Dunnocks (Hedge Sparrows) and others, almost at ground level. How many others must there be in those tall trees?

Cow Parsley - 30 December 2017
It's not just birds. As I walk up and down the Avenue and through the connected Twittens on the way to and from the town I have encountered a variety of flowers.  When, just a few days ago, I did a New Year Plant Hunt, I found a Cow Parsley already in flower. Soon there will be Primroses, and a view of the whole Avenue frothing white with Cow Parsley is one of Uckfield's most beautiful sights.

Honeybee on Alexanders in Lime Tree Avenue - April 2015
Where there are flowers, there are pollinators.  While passing through the Avenue, I often see bees and hoverflies (bee mimics that are also pollinators) working their way round the flowers.

Ivy Bee - September 2015
There will be other sorts of bees too. Ivy flowers late in the season and supports pollinators in the autumn after other flowers have faded away. It also supports its own special bee - appropriately called the Ivy bee.

Beautiful Demoiselle - May 2017
One day, when walking back from the town I found a Beautiful Demoiselle. She may look dainty and pretty but if you are a small flying creature, she is a fearsome predator who hunts on the wing.

Frog and Primroses - Feb 2016
There are habitats for other creatures too. On one of the work days, we found a frog, which Martyn carefully put in a safe place.

As well as providing a home and restaurant for all sorts of creatures, Lime Tree Avenue is a highway - a "wildlife corridor" that enables insects, birds and other animals to get from one green space to another.  If a food source runs low in one place they can use a wildlife corridor to travel to another and live to munch another day. I particularly enjoy seeing wildlife in our Manor Park garden and I'm sure I would see less if we didn't have wildlife corridors such as Lime Tree Avenue, the Railway and the River Uck nearby.


Tiny creatures from the leaf litter - 6 Jan 2018.
While I was scrabbling round in the composted leaf litter, I found and photographed a strange looking little creature about 1.5 cm long. It was only a snap with my phone, so I wasn't hopeful of getting an ID.  However I posted it in the Insects of Britain and Northern Europe Facebook group in the hope of getting some ideas.

Between them LS and DA suggested that the white larva was a beetle - probably Staphylinae (Rove beetle) or may be carabinae.  DA had spotted something else. Just above the beetle, by its legs, there are some tiny snails. She thinks these are probably Pupilla sp. (Chrysalis Snails) or Vertigo species. You might think that these are babies but this type of snail is just very, very small.

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