Running from Bishop’s Waltham and past Dundridge is a steep scarp, which is mostly wooded and known as a hanger, because the trees seem to hang precariously onto to the slope. One of the woods is near the Hampshire Bowman pub and goes by the curious and barely pronounceable name of Phrympth Wood. The name may mean vigorous copse, though local schoolchildren go for the easier option of calling it Captain Phillimore’s wood. His family still own it, but is now being managed to a plan by woodland expert Hugh Milner, with much help from Butser Ancient Farm’s tree-wright Darren Hammerton.
At the western end of the wood is Little Phrympth Copse, which a previous owner clear-felled (except for a few large trees) then planted in 1974 with Hybrid Larch. This crop was thinned in 1991 but by 2015 the wood was in such a bad way that Hugh recommended removal of all the larch and replacement with native species.
Unlike most conifers the larch loses its leaves in winter and allows just enough light to reach the ground to germinate existing seeds of Oak, Hazel, Ash and Field Maple. The response to the larch clearance was amazing, with seedlings going from tick-over to top gear. Some trees have been planted and enclosed with tree guards, and natural regeneration will need more protection from browsing deer. A young oak tree can be seen in the foreground of the photograph. Sadly the Ash trees are likely to be killed by Ash Die-back disease, which is already present here.
Although most of the larch timber was removed, smaller material “lop and top” was left behind, and this needs to be cleared by hand so that native trees can grow unimpeded.
On Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st January, Hampshire Conservation Volunteers will be at Little Phrympth Copse, helping Darren with the clearance work, which will include a bonfire. Any help would be welcome, tools are provided, just wear old clothes.
If you would like to come along, contact Alan Thurbon for more details on 023 9232 5570 or see our website at