Back in 2018 the Old Man speculated on what impact Ash Dieback would have on Wytham Woods, the disease having been confirmed as present only in 2017. There was still an unspoken hope that its impact would not be as great as feared. Nonetheless a series of project were put in place to explore what… Continue reading Tracking ash decline in Wytham
Witherslack Woods in south Cumbria are a special place for me because they were the first piece of major survey work that I did when I joined the Nature Conservancy Council as a woodland ecologist in 1979. They are a fantastic mix of acidic and base-rich woodland, of wet and dry communities. My focus in… Continue reading Gains and losses in woodland conservation
I first visited this wood in mid-Wales 42 yrs ago. Two things stuck in my mind particularly then: it was in the heart of the kite country when the GB population was only a few tens of birds; and a sheep-fenced exclosure showed good regeneration, not of oak but of rowan. Fence line effects from… Continue reading Allt Rhyd y Groes revisited
How big a wood is has profound effects on the wildlife in it: the ecological literature is full of graphs of species-richness plotted against site-size for example; studies of the interaction of size and isolation effects on species richness, based initially on islands, have been extended to habitat patches of one sort or another. Size… Continue reading Size Matters, but what do we mean by the size of a wood?
Draw a tree and you will likely start with a nice straight trunk. This is what most foresters want; a lack of knots in the outer wood is also desirable. Knots form where the tree has grown out round the base of a twig or branch, so a good timber tree is generally one where… Continue reading Bothersome buds, burrs and brooms
Nearly 45 years ago I started work for the Nature Conservancy Council in Cumbria as a lowly ‘Phase 1’ habitat surveyor. In those days it meant walking footpaths and scanning the countryside with binoculars from roadsides – attracting the attention of passers-by, irate land-owners, or occasionally even the police. We might, if lucky, have been… Continue reading New year, old dog, new tricks?
January, 2021, a new year, and the bright sun made me forget the rain and sleet in my face as I cycled out to the Woods. This large oak seems to dominate the stand but by the summer the younger ash and sycamore around were clearly out-growing it and the oak almost disappeared amongst their… Continue reading A year among the oaks
In an idle moment I reflected that, every 10 years or so, a book comes along that seems to have a disproportionate effect on changing the way people think, what we accept as common knowledge. They cause a shift in our baseline assumptions about conservation. In the mid-seventies conservation (and more slowly forestry) thinking started… Continue reading A good book is hard to beat
Most people, if asked to picture a woodland ground flora will probably think of bluebells or primroses, or perhaps a mixture of heather and bilberry under Scots pine. These are the sorts of images that appear in woodland paintings from the late 19th, early 20th century. One such print hung on our kitchen wall and… Continue reading What flowers should we expect in a new wood?
On a global level one of the best solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises is to leave forests unharvested, or to harvest only at the levels currently done by indigenous populations; and to allow logged forest to regrow without further logging. This minimal interventionist approach is likely to give high benefits in both biodiversity… Continue reading Carbon, wildlife, timber – not all combinations work