Monday, 2 November 2015

crimea plantation

Right up between us and Bestwood Country Park is Crimea Plantation (or Wood): there's no vehicle access and there's not been any woodland management for years.

Boundary beech leaves catching the sun
The local mountain bike population uses the steep gradients for daredevil jumps and has created remarkable earthworks to facilitate their speedy journey to NHS casualty departments courtesy of the air ambulance.

Our guess is that the wood was planted after the Crimean War. Sanderson's Map of 1835 shows the area as being farmland. The term plantation suggests that a woodland was planted  - rather than naturally regenerated - after 1856 and possibly in commemoration of the local fallen..?

Nathan hangs mysteriously in the fog
Another theory we have is that the fast growing sweet chestnuts were planted to provide pit props for Bestwood Colliery making use of a hillside that was close to the colliery and not suitable as either pasture or for arable crops. However, there are very few mature trees at all. Puzzling.

The densely canopied wood also contains beech, oak - and sycamore.

There is little understory beyond bramble that rarely flowers or fruits. Ubiquitous and invasive rhododendron ponticum has established itself.

The limited native flora results in impoverished fauna. One record of woodcock is all we can muster although we think buzzard and sparrowhawk may nest around here. There are very few migrant songbirds to challenge the spring song of the robins and wrens. We have heard roe deer barking and identified common pipistrelle bats in small numbers.
The boundary oak

Our boundary with the wood is shown on the 1835 map and on that boundary line grows our oldest tree - an oak that is possibly 200 years old. It has serious damage at its base where the bark only covers part of the trunk. Many years ago a bough sank to the ground and has rooted and which is now providing support for the tree.

Unfortunately the unchecked sycamores have grown up beside the venerable oak and are crowding it. Its branches strain to reach sunlight through the dense sycamore foliage.

So, with the landowner's permission, Nate and Dunc came in today with chainsaws, winches, wedges, ropes and levers to remove this unwonted competition and begin some light touch management of this section of the wood.

With permission, our plan over the coming years will be to remove aggressive sycamore that is close to our boundary and to encourage native trees, shrubs and woodland flowers. Deadwood is invaluable to invertebrates and so felled wood and brash will be left to rot. We have also asked our arborists to leave as many trees as possible as vertical 'standing deadwood' as this is considered to be the most useful for wildlife.

The creation of space and the opening of the tree canopy is really important as areas where habitats merge  (the eco-tone) is where one will frequently find the greatest biodiversity.

As areas are cleared we will transplant some of our self-sown holly and yew seedlings to create a more varied understory. We will also seed the area with woodland wild flowers.

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