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2: Lady Park Wood and its History

Peterken, G.; Mountford, E. CABI PDF

2

Lady Park Wood and its History

Lady Parke was one of the five parts of Hadnock

Wood, a large ancient wood in the parish of Dixton,

Monmouthshire. The modern reserve includes most of the historic Lady Parke coppice and a fragment of the ancient Patches Wood in the parish of

Staunton, Gloucestershire. Today, Hadnock Wood,

Patches Wood and a large tract of secondary woodland planted on farmland in the 19th century form part of Highmeadow Woods. They are managed by

Forest Enterprise (England) as part of the Forest of

Dean, even though much of the ground lies in Wales.

Climatically, Lady Park lies right on the boundary between the oceanic western uplands of Britain and the somewhat drier and warmer lowlands. For the record, mean annual temperature is 9.3°C, mean annual precipitation is 719  mm and nitrogen deposition is 14.4 kg/ha/year (Verheyen et al., 2012).

2.1

Physical Environment

Lady Park Wood stands on the left bank of the Wye as it passes through the upper Wye Gorge downstream of Symonds Yat (Fig. 2.2). This part of the river concludes an amazing sequence of great meanders formed in Devonian Old Red Sandstone that starts near Hereford and continues even after the river encounters the Carboniferous Limestone hills after Goodrich. The Wye enters the hills at Walford, flows out again below Symonds Yat and turns smoothly at Goodrich back into the hills below the settlements of Symonds Yat east and west, before bending round the Dowards and out into a wider valley as it approaches Monmouth. The crowds of visitors to Symonds Yat Rock thus witness a double view in which the Wye flows north on the right and back south on the left.

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14: Long-term Ecological Studies

Peterken, G.; Mountford, E. CABI PDF

14

Long-term Ecological Studies

Many aspects of ecology, especially in woodland, can be understood only through observation continued over decades or centuries. The practice of making observation dependent on research grants and three-year Ph.D. courses prevents these aspects being studied. The philosophy, now fashionable, of designing observations only in order to confirm or disprove some preconceived hypothesis makes it difficult to discover the unexpected. At Madingley Wood, along with Wytham Woods and Lady Park Wood, the long duration of existing studies makes it possible to break out of these limitations.

(Rackham and Coombe, 1996)

Forests operate on timescales of centuries, during which some changes are rapid and profound but most are slow and almost imperceptible. We try to understand them, not only for their intrinsic interest but also for highly practical reasons. What changes are happening now? Is the change unprecedented?

To what extent are people responsible? Do we need to do anything to stop, reverse or facilitate change?

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11: Minor Trees and Shrubs

Peterken, G.; Mountford, E. CABI PDF

11

Minor Trees and Shrubs

These subordinate tree species form a mixed bunch.

Several can grow into the canopy, but they never achieve the stature of oak and other canopy dominants. Mostly, they remain in the underwood, where they influence the growth of the canopy dominants by restricting space for regeneration. The evergreens – holly and yew – can dominate underwood, but they and the other species are generally found as a thin scatter. In Lady Park, the performance of each is distinctive enough to encourage the idea that tree species have their own personalities – that each contributes something unique to the woodland community.

11.1

Hawthorn

All the individuals in Lady Park are common hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna, a ubiquitous species, common in many kinds of woodland, which fruits abundantly, employs birds to distribute these fruits widely and thereby becomes one of the characteristic colonists of secondary scrub and a characteristic underwood in secondary woodlands on former arable. Populations thin out on base-poor soils, but hawthorn seems well suited to most other soil types.

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9: Birch and other Short-lived Canopy Trees

Peterken, G.; Mountford, E. CABI PDF

9

Birch and other Short-lived

Canopy Trees

These are species whose survival strategy is best summed up as quick-witted opportunism. They often dominate new growth after felling, especially where the ground has been left bare by timber extraction, but they cast only light shade and cannot therefore exclude the long-lasting shade species, such as beech, wych elm and lime. Fast growing in their youth, provided they are well lit, they generally outpace the most vigorous ash, oak and beech enough to dominate the canopy, but their growth rate declines and eventually their crowns are confined by more vigorous neighbours. Individual trees rarely last long and cannot replace themselves in a mature stand until the canopy is opened up by heavy thinning or a substantial natural disturbance. Even then, they succeed only by responding quickly. In theory, they will be favoured when the rate and intensity of disturbances – natural or silvicultural – increases, but long periods without substantial disturbance should reduce them to minor stand components.

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12: Habitats

Peterken, G.; Mountford, E. CABI PDF

12

Habitats

Woods contain a host of habitats that enable particular species to thrive within their bounds.

Within Lady Park, we have, for example, tracks, rock faces and tufa-forming seepages, but not streams, save for the not inconsiderable bulk of the Wye at its foot. This chapter gives more detail on the habitats most directly related to stand dynamics, dead wood and open spaces.

12.1

Dead Wood

If there was one feature that foresters sought to minimise, it was dead wood. Managers who grow utilisable timber see dead wood as waste, timber defects, a source of disease and, in some forest types, an invitation to fire. And yet, in natural forests, dead wood is not just inevitable but an important habitat, and a state through which the nutrients are recycled into new growth. Moreover, just as bald heads and gammy legs are part of the human condition, so dead branches and hollow trunks form a natural stage in the life of trees.

In Lady Park Wood, dead wood takes many forms. Stumps of trees felled in 1942 are still prominent (see Fig. 7.19). Coppice stools remain, some completely dead, most the foundation of living trees

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