A little over a week ago I had the pleasure of being shown around Alvecote Wood, a small area of ancient woodland near my home in Tamworth. The woodland is owned by the husband and wife team of Stephen Briggs and Sarah Walters, and I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah personally to show me around the woodland. A fellow wildlife photographer, and conservationist, Sarah was a fountain of knowledge and really opened my eyes to the work that is involved with managing land such as this. Before Sarah and Stephen took over ownership of the land in 2007, it is suspected that very little had been done in terms of management for the last twenty years, and in light of recent debates regarding rewilding and peoples involvement with natural spaces, I thought this would prove to be a great topic for this week’s blog entry. If you have any thoughts on rewilding, or the management of natural spaces, then please comment below!
Sarah started off my visit to the wood with a chance to get some great shots of the numerous birds feeding on the bird feeders that are set up there. Blue tits, great tits, nuthatches, robins, and a nearby woodpecker were there in full force, and it was great to watch them come and go to feed. All in all a great introduction to Alvecote Wood!
Ed Marshall. A blue tit was making the most of the mess being left behind (bottom) by those fighting for food above (top)!
As we walked around the woodland, Sarah pointed out the various areas of the woodland that had received a great deal of attention by volunteer groups. Dense thickets of hazel had to be routinely coppiced to make space for the trees to regenerate effectively, and a vast expanse of holly bushes had recently been cut back to allow light to reach the woodland floor around it. Had this been left to continue in this state, then saplings would struggle to seed successfully meaning younger trees would not be present to provide additional habitat in the event of older trees dying, or becoming damaged as so many have been in recent adverse weather conditions. With the holly now cleared and more light reaching the floor of the woodland, it will prove to be ideal for woodland plants such as blue bells to grow, and hopefully see new oak saplings begin to take hold. What I most impressed by, however, was the consideration of canopy dwelling animals such as squirrels and potentially dormice. Great care had been taken to ensure that the tree canopy was connected throughout the area in which the holly had been removed to allow safe passage of these mammals should they need it. I can only hope that they find evidence of this hard work paying off in the near future!
Sarah also showed me the tiered ponds that had been created, fed by a small stream of water that ran down through the woodland. They were tiered in order to allow the silt to settle in the first pond, leaving the lower ponds comparatively free of sediment, ideal for the growth of various aquatic plants that would prove useful for various insect and amphibian species. There were two more ponds located in Betty’s Wood, a new 9 acres of land that bad been purchased and managed in order to encourage a greater diversity of wildlife. One pond had saplings planted on its south facing side, specifically to cast shade over it, whereas the other was left open to allow various aquatic plant species to grow thus creating two different habitats. The thought behind such work was incredible, and it didn’t stop there. The newly purchased land in which these two ponds were located had numerous new trees planted, including willow, alder, and the side of the field nearest the original woodland site had been left clear to allow new oak seedlings to take hold, spreading out from the already existing oaks. Within this expanse of sapling growth, areas had been left clear to make space for wild flower meadows, an addition that I believe will be very much appreciated by the areas resident honey bees; one man-made hide is present on the edge of this new land, though Sarah reports that there are others within the woodland itself, hopefully suggesting that pollination of newly planted trees and plants will be very successful.
Ed Marshall. The old oak trees of Alvecote Wood had already managed to result in new oak saplings seeding on the near side of Betty's Wood, which were now marked and protected to encourage their growth.
Ed Marshall. Sapling trees cover a great deal of the 9 acres of Betty's Wood, with grassy clearings for the development of wild flower meadows.
On the return through Alvecote Wood, Sarah pointed out areas of the dense bramble that had been left untouched in order to provide suitable nesting sites for the various woodland birds, and even talked about sighting of muntjac deer seeking cover within it. On the whole, Alvecote Wood was a fantastic place , and gave a genuine feel of excitement as to what will be happening with the woodland over the coming years. I am very thankful for being shown around by Sarah, and I hope to see it expand further, providing an even greater range and area of habitat for a multitude of species. It is a true haven for wildlife, and it is all thanks to the hard work and dedication of the people involved.
Are there conservation areas such as this where you live? Do you think that they are doing a great job, or should it be left to its own natural devices? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think!