Sunday 28th April 2013
Can you tell me what has been achieved in the woodland in 2012?
The woodland thinning programme continued during 2012 with the long term aim of reverting the woodland back to a predominantly broadleaf structure. This will be achieved by removing a percentage of the conifer species allowing natural regeneration of broadleaf species to develop under the protection of the remaining trees.
Broadleaf species such as Oak, Beech and Hornbeam support a greater diversity of species than conifer trees such as Douglas Fir and Norway Spruce. Conifer species also retain their needles all year round shading out species such as Bluebell and Foxglove that flourish in broadleaf woodlands.
Some areas of the woodland have been identified as Plantation on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS). During the 1940’s and 50’s conifer species were planted as a commercial crop to provide timber for a range of industries. These conifers were planted on areas identified as ancient woodland. Our thinning programme is restoring these features back to their former glory.
Further coppicing work was completed. Copping is a tradition woodland management technique, which involves cutting back a variety of tree species such as hazel to approximately 6 inches above the ground, the tree is then allowed to re grow for a number of years before the cycle starts again. Traditionally the cut stems were used to make gates, hurdles and baskets. Although this practice looks quite severe it does however prolong the life of the tree, it also benefits a range of wildlife by creating open space allowing wildflowers to flourish providing a nectar source for a range of butterflies.
Our main wildflower meadow was extended in 2012. An area of scrub and bramble was removed from the edges of the meadow allowing the wildflowers to spread. It is hoped that through this work our small population of native Common Spotted Orchid will expand and thrive. This new area will also provide further foraging areas for the two beehives that are located at the meadow.
And how has/does the woodland cope with the winter weather?
The prolonged cold periods during 2012/13 and the successive wet springs of recent years have proved to be quite detrimental for a number of species. Butterflies that have emerged in early spring have not been able to complete their life cycles due to the wet weather resulting in a knock on effect on populations the following year.
Early flowering species such as coltsfoot, blackthorn and bluebell have also been noticeably later coming into flower.
We have experienced very high rainfall and staff have been working hard to ensure drainage channels are maintained. A new ditch was installed in Areas X and Y to drain water away from these areas. Damp areas have been seeded with wildflowers and Willow that thrive in the wetter areas, over time through transpiration these areas will start to dry out.
However there are some signs of spring with Coltsfoot and Primrose in flower. Bluebells are also starting to emerge and should be in flower within the next few weeks.
So what are the plans for 2013?
Over the last year staff have been collecting seeds from a range of plants including Bluebell, Foxglove, Birdsfoot Trefoil and Red Campion. These seeds have been stored over the winter and were planted out into a poly tunnel a few weeks ago. The seeds have now germinated and will be planted across the woodland over the next few weeks.
The woodland team are currently working in a discrete area of the Park known as Duck Wood. This section of the Park has been identified as Ancient Woodland, which means that it has been continually wooded since the 16th Century. The area is extremely rich in terms of woodland wildflowers however over the last 10 years this area has become dominated with bramble, which is starting shade out large areas of woodland floor.
This is now being tackled by strimming large areas taking care not to damage any of the Bluebells that are currently emerging. This work is invaluable and will secure the long term health of the large populations of Bluebell found in this area.
It is important that we update our biological records so that we are fully aware of all of the species found in the Park in order for us to apply the most appropriate management techniques. Last year we completed an invertebrate survey and a fungi survey. Both surveys revealed new species we weren’t aware of plus a couple of nationally rare species. This year we will continue to build our knowledge by concentrating on small mammals. Surveys will be completed throughout the year and we eagerly await the results.