How can a relatively small animal hospital cope with 3,000 admissions a year?
The answer, as Preservation Society work-party and committee members found on a visit to the RSPCA centre at Mallydams Wood, Fairlight, last Thursday, is a combination of excellent facilities, good organisation and dedication.
The committee took up the kind offer of an organised visit following the talk given to the 2014 annual meeting by Mallydams’ manager, Dr Bel Deering.They were not disappointed.
Mallydams came into being in 1952 after landowner Horace Quick left the 55-acre wood to the RSPCA.
The HPS tour began with Dr Deering explaining the RSPCA’s woodland management policy via a walk blessed with early Spring sunshine.
The charity has used a £35,000 Lottery grant to have a wide board-walk laid through the muddiest section of the woods.
Broadly, the RSPCA’s care of Mallydams mirrors the work of HPS in the Highwoods.
Similarities include strenuous efforts to remove invasive rhododendron bushes. Mallydams’ invaders are longer-established and therefore bigger.
This poses an even more challenging problem. But since access to Mallydams is restricted to such organised visits and open days, the RSPCA has been able to undertake an extensive tree-planting programme in the newly-opened areas without losses due to vandalism.
The visitors admired the construction employed in the bird hides which have been provided.
Other aspects of the HPS learning-curve included the home-made chestnut wattle fencing at viewing area which is well-used by visiting youngsters.
Two massive Redwoods planted soon after the RSPCA were given the woods attracted the visitors’ admiration.
But the chief sources of HPS envy were far smaller - Dormice. Mallydams possesses relatively few Hazel trees – generally accepted by experts to be essential for woodland to be a Dormouse habitat.
The real reason why Mallydams is home to so many of the shy creatures is not fully understood but Dormouse boxes abound and the monthly checks made on them in season yield positive results – including one obese specimen which topped the scales at 36 grammes!
Dr Deering had cheering news for her visitors. The Thursday, March 5th HPS work-party discovered a neat, spherical nest while working on the Dry Heath.
When this was described to Dr Deering her immediate reply was: “That sounds like Dormouse.”
This is cheering news indeed for a society which has long sought in vain for signs of Dormice in the Highwoods.
Rather like those visiting human patients, the party were asked to be as quiet as possible in deference to the feelings of those in the animal hospital.
These included a badger recovering from a fight during which it had lost an ear, slumbering hedgehogs and a herring gull protesting
from within a cardboard carrying-box, unaware that it was about to be released following successful recovery.
Birds are ringed before release. One gull was later tracked in Ostende before returning to the UK.
The visitors were shown the pools where seals and waterfowl are treated and the kitchen where meals are provided for a wide variety of species.
So much to see and enjoy – and such welcome news for volunteers who have long hoped that the Highwoods host Dormice!