When managing a nature reserve we have to be able to quickly say which region we want to do work in – or record which area we saw a particular species. This is why you’ll sometimes hear me quoting compartment or slope numbers.
Hartslock is very linear, and was divided into 4 clear grazing areas when the site was bought in the 1970s.
This is where the main entrance gates are located and where we have the public footpath. This has always traditionaly been nicknamed the ‘caravan slope’ because it was here that resident wardens pitched their caravan while they worked on site. The habitat here is probably the youngest of all and the thicker soils and slightly more nutrient-rich soils can be seen by the height of the grass and shrubs.
Monkey orchids have been seen here sporadically since the 1990s and there are records of them growing in the wood-edge in the 1950s and 60s. In 2006 we saw the largest colony in this slope when 7 flowered.
This is the main Monkey orchid slope where most visitors come to take photos of the orchids. The perimeter has been rabbit-fenced since 1992/3 and the quality of grassland is about the best on the site, which shows that it has never been ploughedor treated with chemicals. In addition, slope 2 also includes the thick hedge that divides it from slope 1 plus the thin strips of enclosed woodland to the north and south.
The northern woodland has always provided an alternative, stepped route to top – and one that we prefer visitors to take because it lestens the errosion and compaction on the orchid grassland.
The southern woodland strip has been left to go ‘wild’ for many years but recently we have done a little scalloping of the edges to open it up and pushed a thin ride down between the 2 large Yews to recreate a small clearing, where it is rumoured that the Monkey orchids grew in the 1950s and 60s.
This is the area of grassland and scrubby hedge beyond slope 2 but before you get to the ‘lone beech’. The quality of the grass here is rougher and there is more scrub than in any other compartment, but this forms a very good shelter-belt for invertebrates.
The gradient is very steep here and at the bottom we have allowed the woodland to grade into the grassland scrub in a mosaic.
This is the largest compartment, just beyond the beech tree and where we have recently had a large and unexpected increase Monkey orchid numbers. One or two flowered close to the beech for a number of years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but in 2006 the numbers rocketed to close to 20 flowering plants.
The new plants appear to be the offspring of the first ‘settler’ in this compartment, but one further plant has appeared way over on the eastern side of the compartment. This lone plant has flowered well and we hope that it sets good seed and makes another satelite colony.
As of 2008 we now have a fifth compartment next to slope 4. This dry valley has a similar flora to slope 4 but it is much larger – similar in size to slopes 2-4 combined. There are no Monkey orchids here yet but we have high hopes.