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  • Julie Muller

BANK AND COTHER WOOD SSSI - A Ridge of Ancient Trees And a Carpet Of Lime- Lovers

Updated: Jan 29, 2022

(Nearest post code - WR14 4DT)

Visited by Shep and Zak

If you look west from the Malvern Hills, you can see waves of woodland stretching out ahead of you. Our humans have often wondered what these woods would be like to walk in.

There are actually several woods to explore and they all form part of the Malvern Hills AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).

On one warm sunny July day we found ourselves heading out towards Bank and Cother Woods SSSI, part of which is leased and managed by the Hereford and Radnor Trust.

Like all SSSIs , Bank and Cother Woods are important because they represent the very best examples of particular habitats. The trees, shrubs and herbs found here are alkali-loving and they grow in soils formed on top of limestone which was formed during the Silurian period of Earth’s history. This was a time when life on land was really beginning to ‘take off!’. These habitats are not very common today because a lot of the land has been ploughed up for farming.

A Border Collie sheep dog walks along a shady green tree lined track in Bank and Cother Wood in Herefordshire
Shep striding along the tree-lined paths of Bank and Cother Wood in Herefordshire

On this lovely sunny day, We left our car on a road in West Malvern and our humans guided us down a lane through a farm and up towards the woods. The soils must be good around here because there were enormous courgette plants growing along the side of the road. From the farm our walk took us up on to a limestone ridge with steep banks on either side which were completely clothed in vegetation. As the path sits on top of the ridge it acts as a divide between the two woods. On this warm July day, It felt like we were walking through a relaxing green tunnel. Oak and ash, yew and wych elm interlaced branches over our heads.

Where the sun broke through, the dappled light lit up another level of shorter shrubs and bushes . Hazel and holly, spindle, hawthorn and lilac coloured scabious all festooned in old man’s beard, stood like islands in a sea of dogs mercury and other wild flowers. Dog’s Mercury is one of the indicator species for ancient woodland so trees must have been growing here since as long ago as the late sixteenth century.

The wildflowers seemed to attract a whole plethora of invertebrates and as we sniffed and snorted our way along the path, squadrons of insects flitted above our heads.

The bank was less steep to the west and the trees cover opened up a little to reveal tantalising glimpses of a grass meadow - one of Shep’s all-time favourite playgrounds. He just loves rolling over in the sweet -smelling herbs and grasses.

Sadly, today’s walk did not give him the chance to work on his technique.

In fact, the footpath took us out of the wood and around the perimeter of the hay meadow. In the heat of the sun, the flowers were in profusion both in and outside of the field and they reminded our humans of the flowers that you can find on the South Downs in Sussex. The pink star shaped flowers of centaury and common rest harrow as well as the rich purple bugloss were magnets to a host of bees and butterflies which danced in front of our noses as we walked.

Continuing around the field, we climbed back up into the cool shade of the wood and then immediately took a very steep descent out of the wood, back to the farm and so returned to the car. What a lovely walk!

Bank and Cother Woods SSSI is a very beautiful and serene place to walk. Although close to large centres of human settlement, it is far from the madding crowd and we hardly met a soul!!!!

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