One of the books I've been reading is Oliver Rackham's Woodlands
, in the Collins New Naturalist series. Like all of his books, it is a rich source of information about the countryside, though it can be a bit dense at times, and parts do feel as though they are recycled bits of other reports and documents. It could have done with a rather more thorough edit (that's the publisher in me talking), but I found it a fascinating read.
One of the revelations in the book has been the realisation that woods (and I mean Ancient Woodland) are incredibly varied. Even in a relatively small locality like Forest Row, each wood has particular characteristics, and they're all quite different. This is borne out by my walking in recent weeks.
We did a short walk from Goat car park three weeks ago, and though it doesn't have an Ancient Woodland designation it is an SSSI and has Special Protection Area
status by virtue of it being part of Ashdown Forest. It's one of my favourite corners around here, and in the sunshine the beech and birch mixture is quite captivating:
There's a fair bit of holly too, and then occasionally you find a really old tree like this big coppiced beech:
Broadstone Warren is a very different wood. I wandered up there last Monday after all the rain. It's a much denser woodland, with marvellous mosses, ferns and fungi. Lots of beech, but much more established, as well as oaks and also some yews dotted around, including these leafless ones:
Until I started going on these tree walks I think I could only tell a few trees apart (oaks, beech, hazel, horse chestnut, sycamore). I certainly wouldn't have known an alder; now I am finding them all over the place. They are particularly adapted to being near water, so you find them in some very wet places, often by the Medway or other streams, and here in Broadstone Warren by the big pond, often growing completely surrounded by water:
Yesterday evening we had a short walk, and went through Alder Wood, which is just west of the village on the footpath between the road to Weir Wood and Brambletye Manor Farm:
It is certainly very wet underfoot at the moment, though we didn't see any alders, but didn't get very far into the wood. There are lots of sweet chestnuts, and this is some coppiced sycamore:
But we found our alder eventually. This is along by the stream as we crossed the footbridge heading towards Brakey Shaw:
It's apparently really sturdy wood, and clearly doesn't rot easily. I've also been reading The Ashdown Forest Dispute 1876-1882
, edited by Brian Short, and I've been struck at the frequency of the references to commoners taking alder from the Forest.
Finally, yesterday we ended up at Brakey Shaw, which has lots of hazel, certainly in the bit we were in, and there must have been some fantastic bluebells there recently.
So, quite a variety of woods in a very small area. And I know I'm only scratching the surface.