Spring Walk

As I didn’t get to the work party yesterday, it seemed like a good idea to take a walk in the Wood today (Saturday). I decided to carry out the first butterfly transect of the year, but with a cloudy sky and temperature of 12°C, none were to be seen. However, there was still plenty to see and hear. As shown above, the first bluebells are now out in their traditional locations, along with other early spring flowers. I saw a Green Woodpecker along Middle Way and a nice view of a Buzzard in the grove of Sweet Chestnut trees at the end of the transect. The Nuthatches are very audible at this time of the year with their repeated peep-peep call. A cuckoo was heard in the plantations to the north of the Wood. After all the rain, the streams and brooks were in flood and the paths very muddy. Returning to the car park, a Willow Warbler was calling in the picnic area, a favourite place for this species for the last couple of years.  I made a mental note of several fallen trees across some of the minor paths – something for future work parties now that large scale clearance has ceased for the breeding season.

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Old alignment of Yellow Trail now revealed

Work on the clearance work on the Yellow Trail just east of the bridge over Grimes Brook has included clearing the alignment of the old track which would have been used before the bridge was built over the brook. This has revealed the remains of culverts over the brook and another small channel to the east. It is known from old maps that this track was originally completely straight, being one of the major paths for the extraction of wood in the 19th century. In the photo below you can see the bridge to the right where the path eventually swings round to the left. To the left can be seen the cleared old alignment.

When approaching from the east, the clearance gives the impression that the path continues straight across the brook, as the bridge is virtually invisible; as is the path to it. (The bridge is marked by the blue arrow, in case you can’t spot it!)

The effect may be temporary however, as the trees to the left and right which restrict the width of the ride at this point are due to be removed in the next few weeks, making the whole area much more open.

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Clearance work in the Wood

As a result of the significant clearance work carried out by contractors late in 2011, many vistas in the Wood have changed. Details can be found here. Although it may look rather like a waste land at present, it will mellow with regeneration as have previous areas dealt with in earlier years.

The most obvious change is on the right of the drive when entering the wood where 2 hectares of rhododendron has been cleared. Here is a view looking from the start of the Yellow Trail towards the entrance drive:-

The area between the Yellow Trail to the west of the picnic area and the Blue Trail ride has been opened up to recreate the original route of this north-south ride and the dangerous beech tree has been made safe:-

Further to the west, a new coppiced glade has been created between the two tributaries of Rowbourne Brook:-

At the ‘Six-Ways’ junction, the ride going north to Brook Glade, which was only partially widened during previous work, has now been widened at its north end:-

The same ride, going south from Six-Ways down to Grimes Brook has been widened and the area to the east made into an open glade:-

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Work on the Yellow Trail

In order to maintain the easterly part of the Yellow Trail as a wide open glade, some tree felling and general clearance is being undertaken by the group. Here is Howard felling a poor specimen of Oak.

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Dormouse Boxes

In late August the group helped to erect 50 Dormouse boxes in the Wood. We hope that this will help identify the status of Dormice in the Wood.

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August activities

Howard fells a dangerously rotting birch tree on the Yellow Trail.

Nearby we noticed a Fly Agaric toadstool.

The new fence and gate for the store area.

Digging out the base for the new concrete ramp.

Heather in flower on Middle Way.

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Today’s working party

Today we spent chain-sawing some large logs to create some wooden ‘stepping stones’ for a local project to create a community garden at Northaw.

After we finished, we noted this some spectacular Parasol Mushrooms near the entrance drive, see below.

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Vegetation Surveys

In the past few weeks we have been taking this year’s survey of vegetation along the set transect lines. We carried out surveys at Brook Glade, Justice Hill and on Middle Way we created a new transect to monitor growth on the bare section formed from last year’s widening of the eastern section of Middle Way. We also did the western-most transect on Middle Way which was missed last year.

The new transect shown above covers ground currently almost bare, though the middle of the path, which is often muddy, (see bottom of picture) shows a plentiful growth of Water Pepper.

We finished just in time before Maydencroft arrived with their machinery to mow the bracken areas of the wood.

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Bat Walk

On Sunday 26th June 2011, I carried out my annual bat walk. A warm night with a good number of Pipistrelles found on Justice Hill and along Middle Way and the western Blue Ride. Tawny Owls were also calling, but compared to previous years very little evidence of Muntjac Deer, which I would have expected to hear barking and moving about the wood. Whether this reflects a lower population is not clear.

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Summer work

The Group has been engaged in several activities in recent weeks. One of the old Beeches close to the picnic area has lost several boughs in recent times and the group cleared up the fallen branches.

After clearance

We have also been carrying out vegetation transect monitoring, butterfly transect monitoring (see the butterfly page for pictures) and a tree survey designed to identify veteran trees in the wood and also unwanted blocks of rhododendron.

Vegetation transect at Brook Glade – it proved hard to set the right course given that the bracken is covering the intermediate markers (mostly tree stumps).

There are not many really old Oak trees in the wood, as they were commercially ‘harvested’, but some malformed trees were probably deemed not commercially useful and so survived:-

Old Oak on the Yellow Trail (western arm).

The survey has shown how many of the older trees are Beeches. As well as the well-known pair near the picnic area, there are many other old specimens, like this one adjacent to the County Camp:-

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