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 had a chance to become more like lime-stone grassland. Following Richard's retirement hay was no longer made, but the grass was still cut once a year in the autumn. However, even that yearly cut has now ceased.
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 recreation team of Forestry England.
This was the former 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.
Update August 2021
In the the last year or two the pond has received regular maintenance and is still rich in aquatic wildlife but the Deer Lawn has really suffered from lack of an autumn cut.
About three years ago all the bird feeders were removed and some management work done in front of the hide. It looked as if a new feeding station was planned but this has never materialised and now most people find a visit to the hide rather disappointing. Here there is a facility that could easily be improved with a small injection of money and volunteer effort.
There is currently no information about the hide and deer lawn on Forestry England's website:
But on that page there is an opportunity to send a comment to FE about this.
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 strategically placed above the water of the pond.
As well as birds and deer, it was sometimes possible to see badgers, reptiles, dragonflies and butterflies, though as with all wildlife watching nothing was guaranteed and you did have to be quiet and patient!
The bird food for the feeders used to be provided by a volunteer – and you were able to contribute to his costs by means of a collection box prominently placed on the counter in the Top Lodge café.
Do you have photos that you have taken from the hide? Please send them to us for display on the image gallery: "Seen from the hide in 2018"
A female Great Spotted Woodpecker on 22nd March 2016.
Photo: Kurt Hellwing
Deer can still sometimes be seen. This herd of 20 Fallow Deer were feeding on 2nd March 2016.
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
The route to the hide is well marked from the main walking tracks and provides a peaceful hideaway from which to see and photograph birds and other wildlife. It is a great facility that Forestry England could be proud of.