We have been busy in the woods this winter. We are lucky to have some fantastic woodlands on our farms – they range in size from just a few acres up to 90 acres, and some are County Wildlife Sites. They are good examples of semi-ancient woods which at one time may have had some traditional use (for example, wood fuel) but have since been left to their own devices. Without any form of management, some species can become dominant and shade out others, reducing ground flora, understorey and the overall structural and species diversity of the wood. So it is beneficial to carry out at least some light management to improve the structural diversity of the wood and allow more light in, which will help increase the variety of species which can flourish there.
In Weston Copse at Slade House Farm we cleared young sycamore trees and samplings which could become dominant and prevent other species from regenerating. At Brookfield Farm, we worked on a woodland which comprises a mosaic of both wet and dry woodland habitats, meaning it supports an interesting assemblage of plant species suited to both conditions. First we cleared alder to form a glade – this opens up ground to the light which will encourage woodland grasses, herbs and flowers which will of course be wonderful for woodland butterflies. We thinned another area of woodland which had been taken over by holly – holly is of course an important feature in woods and hedges because it provides year-round shelter for small mammals and birds, as well as producing berries in the winter. But it had grown so dense that it was shading out ground flora over a large area, so some of it had to be removed. We also set to work coppicing hazel which is a way of stimulating new growth and allowing different levels of light through – both of these add variation to the conditions provided by a wood, attracting insects and birds. Logs and branches were stacked to make habitat piles for beetles, bugs, larvae and small mammals to find food and shelter. And of course hazel branches have been enjoyed by our donkeys who like to chew on the bark and play with them.
We want to enrich donkeys’ lives by managing our land sustainably and enhancing biodiversity on our farms. All of the conservation work carried out in our woodlands is made possible by our fantastic volunteers, who don’t seem to be put off by grey skies or steep hills! If you would like to join us, please contact us to find out more.