• In the woods - discoveries and thoughts

    In between the days working on my forthcoming book I've been out and about in the local woods and, as seems to happen so often, discovering the unusual or previously unnoticed trees. One only has to take a slightly different turn in an otherwise familiar wood, or perhaps see a location that most of the year might be shrouded in foliage, to make new discoveries.

    Nupend Wood, near Fownhope, is an outlier of the Haugh Woods group that cover a large portion of the Woolhope Dome. Some folks have been barracking the Forestry Commission forever about their (perceived) mismanagement of these woods, and no doubt they have some valid points, but beyond, and sometimes in amongst and in spite of the ranks of conifers the irrepressible broadleaf trees, along with many veteran yews, are still a prominent feature of these woods. Nupend is a fairly small tract of woodland, but is actively managed by the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust. I walk through it several times a year and love the rich mix of trees and wild flowers to be found there as well as the birds and butterflies that good practise have drawn in. The impressive ancient small-leaved lime coppice stool that clings on to the edge of one of the numerous and long disused quarries is a tree I've never spotted before, although I must have walked within thirty or forty feet of it many times. All the branches and stems that you can see in the picture almost certainly emanate from the same tree. Dating such a remarkable tree is well nigh impossible, but 3-500 years wouldn't be out of the question and perhaps it's considerably older and, just for a change, humans can take the credit for keeping it alive and kicking. If it hadn't been coppiced regularly down the years it might easily have expired long ago. The conundrum now is what will be the best management plan for its future... undoubtedly more coppicing, but after such a long spell of non-intervention I hope this will be done in several cycles rather than one fell swoop.

    A few days later & I found myself in Badnage Wood, near Tillington, to the northwest of Hereford city, enjoying the late afternoon sunlight driving into the edge of this predominantly oak wood. In the western edge of the wood that I walked there is little evidence of much truly old growth, most of the big oaks looking about 80-120 years, and mostly planted trees reared as standards I suspect as not a lot of evidence of old coppice. Looking up I was reminded of an article I saw recently about crown shyness between trees (see Crown Shyness on Wiki) & yes, there it was - distinct borderlines between the adjacent crowns of the oaks. Pointless my regurgitating everything from Wiki, but it's just one of those casually noticed phenomena that suddenly makes sense.

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