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13: Species

Peterken, G.; Mountford, E. CABI PDF

13

Species

The wild flora, fauna and fungi of Lady Park have changed in concert with changes in stand age, deadwood volume and the amount and form of open space, but recording has so concentrated on the trees that the records available are insufficient to examine the changes thoroughly. Only the ground flora has been recorded in any detail, so analysis concentrates on the plants, however much we might wish for a more balanced appraisal.

13.1

Ground Flora

Woodland ground vegetation reflects the texture, drainage and reaction of the soil, but the amount of light reaching the ground determines its expression at any one time. Many species grow and flower in spring, when the amount of light reaching the ground rises to its annual maximum before the tree leaves develop, but then they die back, leaving dry stalks (e.g. bluebell) or nothing at all (e.g. ramsons).

Summer-growing plants remain weak under thickets, but compete strongly in the higher light levels afforded under mature stands and may reduce the performance of spring-growing species. Some, like the evergreen brambles, continue to grow in winter.

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17: Rewilding, Remoteness and Wilderness

Peterken, G.; Mountford, E. CABI PDF

17

Rewilding, Remoteness and Wilderness

Eustace Jones would not have said this in 1944, but Lady Park Wood has, in effect, become a test of woodland rewilding. Of course, many other woods have been allowed to run wild, but this one has been recorded as it has grown wilder and thus provides both an informed example of what happens and a basis for assessing whether rewilding is worthwhile and wise.

Rewilding is a modern idea based on old themes, which has come to prominence now because we have realised increasingly that our separation from nature is harming both nature and us. According to the Rewilding Britain website (www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/), rewilding ‘is ecological restoration and a little bit more’, which allows nature to look after itself, thereby ‘securing the good things that nature provides’ – clean air and water, carbon storage, flood control and ‘amazing experiences’. Where land rewilds, rewilders see habitats expanding, wildlife multiplying, people reconnecting with nature and

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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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4: Recording Trees and Expressing Change

Peterken, G.; Mountford, E. CABI PDF

4

Recording Trees and Expressing

Change

Since 1944, recording has developed as a relay. Foresters from Oxford University initiated recording and kept it going until 1960. The baton was passed to the Nature Conservancy between 1971 and 1987, by which time others had been involved intermittently. Since 1992, recording has been maintained by ecologists working independently, but with the cooperation of the successor bodies of the Nature

Conservancy and the Coleford office of the Forestry

Commission (FC), now Forest Enterprise (FE).

4.1

Oxford University

The project was started by Dr Eustace Jones

(Fig. 4.1: see p. 36), a lecturer in the forestry department of Oxford University. A keen bryologist, he had searched out mosses and liverworts in the Wye

Valley and had organised forestry field courses in

Highmeadow Woods during the 1930s. There, and in the New Forest, Hampshire, he had taught survey techniques to forestry students based on long transects through representative stands. Several crossed

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7: Beech and Oak, The Major Forest Trees

Peterken, G.; Mountford, E. CABI PDF

7

Beech and Oak, The Major

Forest Trees

For centuries, beech and oak have dominated in Lady Park Wood. Not only have they formed the largest individual trees they have also been the main concern of woodmen and foresters. Yet they are competitors: in both managed and natural woodland, the fortunes of one declined as the fortunes of the other improved. Oak long dominated in both wood pasture and coppice, but beech was favoured in the conversion to high forest and

‘natural’ woodland, only to be brought up short by grey squirrels and the 1976 drought. Today, both their futures are in the balance.

7.1

Beech in Britain

Beech is the tree that makes the ecological weather. In theory, it has the characteristics of a natural winner: not only does it cast such deep shade that few trees can live in its shadow but also it bears shade when young, lives long, regenerates well and is mildly resistant to browsing. In undisturbed woodland, it ought to dominate, and, once dominant, it should have the capacity to stay dominant.

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