Winter Woodland Work

Have you been down to Little Wittenham Wood recently? If the answer’s yes then you’ve probably noticed areas that have been cleared of vegetation alongside the main footpaths. So what’s going on?

Each winter we create these ‘scallops’ by the sides of the paths as part of our biodiversity improvement project. The vegetation is coppiced (cut back) to allow more light through the tree canopy. In a few months’ time, when spring is in full swing, this will warm up the woodland floor, improving the habitat for plants and woodland flowers, in turn giving butterflies and other insects a boost.

Wood cut from these areas all goes to good use: you’ll notice the ‘dead-hedge’ (piled up foliage and cut branches) providing shelter for birds and small mammals; the logs stacked up go into our boiler to keep the Earth Trust Centre warm over the winter; and bundles of stakes and binders (thin branches) are used for hedgelaying.

Volunteer teams work hard through the winter caring for the woodland – clearing and removing some trees for the many benefits they provide. They are joined in this task by some of our Countryside Skills students, who have been learning all about the technique and putting their new skills in to practice.

Keep an eye on these scalloped areas as the year progresses: look for those wildflowers arriving in April and May, and wait for the butterflies to start flitting around these sheltered patches in June.

Did you know Little Wittenham Wood is an internationally important place?

Little Wittenham Wood is one of Europe’s most important sites for wildlife – it has been designated as both a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The nature reserve is particularly important for the nationally rare great crested newt, as well as protected species such as red kites and bats. Find out more about Little Wittenham Wood.