This is the first Heath Blog since lockdown began and the furlough of the heath warden ended.

Although all guided walks have been suspended for the time being, work has been continuing on the heath, done mainly by others, while being careful to keep to social distancing guidelines.

Our contractor KJR completed the fencing and gates, bar a few minor adjustments.  They have done a very good job in all extremes of weather, including the 3 major storms and the recent heatwave.  You will notice the tracks left by the vehicles in the wet weather, but these are gradually disappearing and slightly wider paths are left, which is also of benefit to walkers.

KJR returned to carry out weedwipe on denser areas of birch saplings.  Roundup was applied and the compartments were shut until it became safe.  We can already see the tops of some of the birches starting to fade.

Remaining Essex Wildlife Trust staff carried out bracken bruising, a process which nicks bracken stems at points, causing the fern to divert its energy coming from the sun into mending the nicks, and therefore it has little or no energy left to grow tall the following year.

There have been many visitors to the heath during the good weather, and behaviour and respect for the site and other people has been very good.  Very little rubbish and dog poo was left behind, and walkers took trouble to social distance, but were polite and friendly at the same time.

Nature has had an amazing time!  We were hosts to 5 singing nightingales, 3 near the roadside from the car park pond to the far end, and 2 in the section across the road.  The amount of birdsong has been wonderful, with our usual visiting species of chiffchaff, willow warbler, blackcap, garden warbler and mistle thrush adding to our all year round residents – the songthrush, wren, robin, goldfinch and long tailed tit.

The heather has just come into flower, and the cross leaved heath (pale pink heather) which is our rarest type, is showing itself in far more clumps than seen for a good few years.  We also had some spectacular honeysuckle which managed to grow about 20 ft up a tall aspen tree (shown in the photo).  It has faded, but is still there near the bottom bridge across the stream.

We are starting to make plans for the Exmoor ponies to return to the heath.  At the moment we’re looking at risk assessments as to when, how many and so on.

The aim of these blogs from now on is to give the reader an idea of what is happening and what there is to see on the heath at this particular moment.  This week the birds are still singing in good voice, their enthusiasm matched by the bees on all of the bramble flowers.  The solitary bees and digger wasps are also busy digging holes in the harder baked paths. 

The tall, bright pink rosebay willow herbs shine out amongst the other vegetation, but the heathers catch the eye as you walk past.  The heath flowers that can be seen are bell heather (spicy pink), heath milkwort (tiny blue flower), heath bedstraw (like a small alyssum flower) and tormentil (4-petalled yellow).

If you visit, hope you enjoy it, while staying safe!

Joan Pinch

Warden, Tiptree Heath

Essex Wildlife Trust

Three views taken this week of the open heath, the shady paths and the digger bees and their holes in the bare paths. Last month’s high honeysuckle finishes the gallery.