This is one of Durham Wildlife Trust’s hidden gems, a small local nature reserve, quietly tucked away yet easily accessed by local residents. At this time of year, when new growth and flowers are well on, it is one of those peaceful and inspiring places to enjoy, especially on the dry and warm day a small group chose to visit. We recorded over 100 species and more will flower over the months to come, so why not visit yourselves? For details of this DWT reserve please click here.
Our purpose was to find and enjoy the flora, and to help our leader, Mark Dinning, to assess the condition of the wood. Mark is responsible for monitoring the state of this local nature reserve, to see that active management by DWT officers and volunteers is having a positive impact on the structure and biodiversity of the site.
Mark explained the process and shared a fairly simple survey sheet to record and score relevant features of a lowland mixed deciduous woodland such as this. On a slow walk through the wood we were stopping at different points and estimating the extent of coverage of existing oak / birch. There was an examination of the composition of the wood – has the removal of non-native species maintained a very high presence of native species? What about the structure of the wood – is there sufficient regeneration, with standing dead wood, trees dying and being replaced by saplings in opened-up gaps? Is there a network of open spaces / glades that allow for sufficient growth of under layers? It sounds technical, and it is! But an ever-patient Mark encouraged all to find and identify the plants with a view to the survey being enjoyable as well as purposeful.
Our earlier training on tree identification was put to good use and it was nice to see the hairy stems of Betula pubsescens (or was it a hybrid?). Sanicle, Sanicula europaea (above) was in flower – small umbels of tiny white flowers on long stalks – easy to see along the path and standing out in the more luxurious growth of Anemone nemorosa, wood anemone and many more ‘ancient woodland indicators’.
After the flush of yellows this spring, mostly those of various members of the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, it was good to find a similar species with yellow flowers, this time Lysimachia nemorum, yellow pimpernel. We had already seen Ranunculus bulbosus, bulbous buttercup with it’s reflexed sepals (note how the sepals curl around the flower top protect it in bud, then unlike other buttercups fold back). The long, patent hair, are also clear to see on this photograph, as are the two types of leaf shapes.
Some of our party were eagerly examining specimens of Stellaria holostea, great stitchwort to see if they could find its smaller cousin, Stellaria media, lesser stitchwort. No joy today, but we did find another relative, Stellaria sylvatica, wood stitchwort – very similar flowers but with wider leaves. There were plenty of flowering bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, adding a colourful backdrop to the woodland floor. So good to see this native species without the gaudy garden versions or hybrids.
As ever, we were also enjoying the non-flowering plants and Rachel was helping all to identify the ferns – lady fern broad buckler fern and male ferns. This one looks as if it is golden-scaled male fern, but confirmation will have to wait until sporangia form later in the summer. Bryophytes were in abundance, including Mnium hornum, swan’s-neck thyme-moss, Polytrichum commune var. commune, common haircap moss and Pellia endiviifolia, endive pellia (liverwort) and others not recorded in detail on this trip (it’s worth a visit, Gaynor!).
And the smells….of
- aniseed – Myrrhis odorata, sweet cicely
- vanilla – Galium odoratum, woodruff
- garlic – Allium ursinum, ramsons and Alliaria petiolata, garlic mustard
and more…. simply wonderful.
Just over 100 species were recorded, click here for the list. Fauna included singing whitethroat, willow warber and chiffchaff; swallow, common carder bumblebee, hoverflies, orange-tip and green-veined white butterfly. This was a thoroughly enjoyable day, thanks to Mark for leading and photography, Rachel for fern identification and all for your identification and surveying.