The Wildlife Hide
Hidden away in the middle of Fineshade Wood there is an open grassy area, a pond, birdfeeders and, looking out at it all, a wildlife hide.
The grassy area is known as the Deer Lawn because, in the past, it was a good place to see herds of Fallow Deer. Sometimes in autumn it was even possible to watch and hear the bucks competing for the attention of does during the annual rutting season. The Deer Lawn, pond and Wildlife Hide were the idea of Richard Eckton, the former Forestry Commission Wildlife Ranger, and during his time at Fineshade the grass was often cut for hay, ensuring that the grassy area has a chance to become more like lime-stone grassland. Although hay is not made now the grass is still cut once a year in the autumn,
The hide was originally erected by the Forestry Commission, and local residents placed a recording book in the hide where a large list of sightings was recorded.
When the RSPB opened their Red Kite Visitor Centre at Top Lodge, it was they who took over the management of the hide, erecting more bird-feeders and installing wildlife interpretation panels that still remain. They encouraged the use of a white board for sightings, enabling visitors to share what they had seen. RSPB volunteers were often on hand at weekends to help visitors.
When the RSPB left, hide management reverted to the Forestry Commission.
Update 8 September 2018
Earlier this year all the bird feeders were removed and some management work done in front of the hide.
It looks as if a new feeding station is planned but, for now, many people are finding a visit to the hide very disappointing.
There is currently no information about this on the FC's website:
But on that page there is an opportunity to send a comment to FC about this.
Until recently this was the view from the hide which looks north across the pond and deer lawn towards Dales Wood.
The bird feeders in front of the hide regularly attracted a wide variety of woodland birds.
Nuthatch and Goldcrest seen from the Hide. Photos Terry Tew
A good variety of birds have been seen from the hide over the years including one year, rather unusually for the middle of the wood, a Kingfisher that regularly sat on a stick above the water of the pond.
As well as birds and deer, it is sometimes possible to see badgers, reptiles, dragonflies and butterflies, though as with all wildlife watching nothing is guaranteed and you do have to be quiet and patient!
The bird food for the feeders is still provided by a volunteer – if you would like to contribute to his costs there is a collection box prominently placed on the counter in the Top Lodge café.
The route to the hide is well marked from the main walking tracks. In 2014 about 100 yards before you reached the hide, some blue paint appeared on a tree on the left. (See picture below). This paint marked Forest Holidays' proposed route for their main access road leading to the central hub of their holiday village if their planning application had been approved in 2015. All the traffic for the holiday village would have crossed the hide access at right angles here. The nearest of their proposed cabins would have been in the open area to the right as you approach the hide.
But for now at least the Wildlife Hide remains a peaceful hideaway from which to see and photograph birds and other wildlife.
Wildlife inside the hide!
A Common Lizard on June 5th.
Wildlife highlights during a visit on Friday 5th June 2015 included three Moorhen chicks being fed on the pond, a Common Lizard actually inside the hide and a posse of small grey-tailed bumblebees eyeing up an empty nest box on the magnificent Wild Service tree in front of the hide.
Deer can still sometimes be seen. This herd of 20 Fallow Deer were feeding on 2nd March 2016.
A female Great Spotted Woodpecker on 22nd March 2016.
Photo: Kurt Hellwing
A Red Fox on a frosty December morning. Photo Terry Tew.
An adult Hobby catching insects and eating on the wing, August 2017. Photo Kurt Hellwing
Do you have photos that you have taken from the hide? Please send them to us for display on the new image gallery: "Seen from the hide in 2018"