We’ve been talking to our resident woodsman, Will Jackson, about what’s happening in the woods now summer is here, as well as finding out what to look out for on your forest forays.
What work needs doing in the woods in summer?
At the moment we’re pruning the lower branches of trees. This promotes upward growth, known as apical dominance, and encourages straight growth in a tree, as the diagram below illustrates.
What’s more, it also stops weeds like bind weed being able to get a choke hold on a tree.
We also spend a lot of time clearing brambles to give trees the space they need to grow and mature.
What the trees are up to in summer and how do they cope with drought or flash floods – in other words, sudden changes in weather attributed to global warming?
This is a great time of year to spot the growth spurt trees are making as the new growth is often a different colour.
Trees are very resilient to drought and flood unless they are young. Certain species, like cherry and beech, will not tolerate flooding and die whilst others like alder and willow thrive in wet conditions.
Climate change affects different tree species in different ways. It’s anticipated, as our climate gets warmer, that native species are likely to retreat from the southern part of the country, leaving forests dominated by imported species which are better adapted to the drier conditions.
We’re also facing the problems of disease and bugs that come hand-in-hand with climate change. According to the Woodland Trust:
19 pests and diseases are attacking our native trees, six have reached epidemic levels. And at least 11 more diseases are nearing our borders.
At the end of the day, it’s us humans that remain the biggest threat.
Chalara (ash dieback) wouldn’t have got to the UK so quickly if we’d been more careful about importing diseased trees from Europe. This has killed over 60 million trees in this country alone.
What can people expect to see in the way of flora and fauna?
In the heart of the woodlands, the trees create such a vast canopy that little light gets through to support the growth of many things. Towards the edges, look out for foxgloves, brambles, ox-eye daisies, forget-me-nots, wild honeysuckle and strawberries as well as bugles and poppies.
We’ve noticed a strong odour of garlic in our woods, thanks to the proliferation of ramsons (also known as wild garlic). I’m told the leaves make an excellent pesto.
Insect life abounds in summer too, so remember to use a repellent if you’re going to be walking in the woods to avoid being bitten to death by mosquitoes. Dragonflies, moths, beetles and a world of mini-beasts can be spotted if you take the time to look.
Woodlands also provide habitats for a wealth of our more unusual butterflies with brilliantly evocative names like Brimstone, Gatekeeper, Purple Emperor and the Silver Washed Fritillary.
Birds are also very busy in the summer months. Here’s a list of a few you might see:
- Longtailed tit
- Great spotted woodpecker
- Tree creeper
As for mammals, in the early evening you’ll be able to spot bats wheeling in the air and possibly a young fox adventuring down a path. Rabbits will come out to play too. You might not see a badger, but it’s easy to identify a badger set with their large holes complete with droppings in front of them as a way of marking their territory.
You might also catch a glimpse of a muntjac – a strange-looking, small deer and the oldest of all the deer breeds . There is something pre-historic-looking about them with their strange tusks growing out from the sides of their mouth.
Summer is a great time of year to visit the woods for a walk and a picnic, but please remember to leave nothing behind but footprints. Here’s a link to the countryside code – a great reminder of how to respect our beautiful land.