It’s been a long held ambition of mine to own a small piece of the countryside, a small self contained woodland. For me , no other environment has the same feel , sounds , light and diversity of wildlife and it’s the one wild place I feel totally at home in. Woodland offers shelter from the elements for a wide range of British wildlife from our largest mammals, birds and rodents right down to the smallest members of the animal kingdom. I’m sure one day I will get to own my woods, but until then I can still enjoy my local Woodland Trust community woods at Mouldon Hill , North Swindon.
To give it its proper name , the Trusts Purton woods is part of the larger Great Western Community Forest, a project to create a community wood / forrest surrounding the area to the north of Swindon. This woodland was the location I chose for my One project in September .
With over 500,000 members and supporters the Woodland Trust covers more than 1,000 sites, with over 26,000 hectares of both ancient and modern woodland all over the UK. The trust aims to protect and campaign on behalf of this country’s woods, plant trees, and restore ancient woodland for the benefit of both wildlife and people.
The Trust is a charity, founded in Devon, England in 1972 by retired farmer and agricultural machinery dealer Kenneth Watkins. By 1977 it had twenty two woods in six counties. In 1978 it relocated to Grantham in Lincolnshire and announced an expansion of its activities across the UK. It supports the National Tree Week scheme, which takes place in late November and is run by The Tree Council.
The Trust has created thousands of hectares of new woodland across the UK on their own land, and work with others to help them create new woods or enrich their local landscapes with trees. The Trust plants new trees and woodland close to existing wildlife-rich areas such as ancient woods or concentrations of ancient trees. This buffers them from the impacts of neighbouring land use and connects existing habitats. There are now nearly 300 new community woods across the U.K. supported and funded by the Woodland Trust.
Woodlands in the U.K. have seen a revival over the past couple of hundred years with more woods and forests being planted . This still only amounts to just 13% of the land area , compared with continental Europe where the avarage coverage is over 35%. It’s also worth noting that nearly 50% of the UK Woodland is located north of the border in Scotland.
By definition, ancient woodlands are areas which have had woodland cover for centuries and have been relatively undisturbed by human activity. Over hundreds of years, they have evolved into complex communities of trees, plants, fungi, microorganisms and insects.
They are woods that are present on maps dating back to 1600 in England and Wales and 1750 in Scotland. It’s presumed that if they’re present on maps of this age, they’re likely to be even older, perhaps even linking back to the prehistoric wildwood that once existed in the UK.
Each ancient wood is unique. It has its own local soil, environment, wildlife and cultural history. For this reason ancient woodland is irreplaceable.
Ancient woods can be historical treasure troves full of archaeological and cultural features that give an insight into past land use. They are part of the natural heritage that we all share.
Our ancient woods are in desperate need of protection. Once vast, they now cover just two per cent of the UK. Approximately half of what remains has been felled and replanted with non-native conifers and invasive species such as rhododendron. This can seriously damage their fragile ecosystems and smother the growth of delicate and rare woodland plants.
By working with landowners and partners across the UK, the Woodland Trust’s aim is to restore planted ancient woods through careful management. By securing and enhancing the surviving ancient remnants of a woodland, we can allow it to return to a more natural state and reawaken dormant glory. Together, we can help protect our ancient woodlands.
Anyway back to my temporary home , Purton wood. The woods were planted between 1998 and 2000 as part of the Great Western Community Forest. Species planted included oak, ash, hazel and willow. The woods cover an area of over 45 acres and is located next to Moudon Hill country park. The woods and park are separated by the meandering river Ray , with open farmland making up the northern boundary. With fresh running water , a reasonable size lake and an area of natural open grass the whole area is a haven for all types of wildlife. Deer , Fox and Badger . Wildfowl, kingfishers and Woodland birds can all be found here.
The site also benefits from good access and free parking , and once you leave the lake and venture further into the woods the noise and crowds of people start to fade into the background. I have had several trail cameras left in the woods with no problems at all ( always best practice to get permission from the woods management team first )
With 300 sites around the UK there’s probably a Woodland Trust site near you. Spend some time getting to know the woods well and it will pay dividends when you start to use you camera.
For more information visit http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk