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  • Julie Muller

HALESEND WOOD- A Wealth of Woodland Wildlife

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

(Nearest post code - WR13 5EW)

Visited by Zak and Shep

Two sheepdogs sit in the shade in the middle of Halesend Wood SSSI in Herefordshire
Zak and Shep enjoying a walk in Halesend Wood SSSI in Herefordshire

On one glorious sunny morning in early March, Julie took us for a walk in Halsend Wood SSSI.

This wood is thought to be one of the very best in the country because of the great diversity in tree and shrub species that it contains. In fact, it was mentioned in an important ‘conservationists Bible written over 40 years ago by a revered environmentalist called Derek Ratcliffe.

Julie parked the car in the Longley Green village and headed for the wood. The path into the wood was very steep and we were very excited to explore but we were dismayed by the amount of fly-tipped rubbish we saw abandoned in the scrubbery at the edge of the path.

Not to be deterred we carried on with our walk.

The sun was shining, the birds were singing and there was the delightful aroma of vegetation slowly waking up from a long hard winter. Two locals came bounding towards us along the path. Their human followed behind and I couldn’t resist saying hello.

The trees on the first part of our walk were still naked and last year’s leaves lay in thick carpets on the ground. We plodded through oak, ash and birch leaves. Stands of leggy hazel coppice pointed multiple stems up towards the sky.

Although the trees were very close together, the ground between them was cluttered with logs, all of them pockmarked with numerous insect-drilled holes. At this time of the year, the lack of leaves allowed the sun to filter through to the woodland floor and here bright green bluebell leaves vied for space.

We climbed higher and higher up into the wood. In places the path followed a ridge and the slopes which dipped steeply on either side were punctuated with curious dips and bowls carved into them. Shep and I ran to investigate and found ourselves looking down into a large amphitheatre shaped hole – the remains of a quarry. The hole had very steep sides and small trees clung to the cliff face which was also bedecked with ferns and mosses of all descriptions. It looked so magical and we would have liked to climb further down to explore.

We continued to sniff and snuffle our way along the path past carpets of dog’s mercury already bursting with clusters of tiny green flowers. This plant is actually an indicator species for ancient woodland so there must have been trees growing here for a very long time. It is very poisonous so Shep and I did not linger too long.

As we walked further into the wood, the tree cover changed and we were plunged into a dark green shade cast by both yew and holly trees. Even here, any available light was snapped up by the light hungry bluebells which huddled together in small clusters. Many of them had spilled on to the footpath and Shep and I had to be very careful not to trample on them.

Some of the yew and holly trees seemed to be very old. Both of these tree species can live for three hundred years or longer and neither of them lose their foliage in the winter. In fact, holly trees are more likely to lose some leaves in the spring. Holly trees are dioecious – that means there are separate male and female trees. This explains why not all holly trees bear the distinctive bright red berries. Only the female trees produce the berries and they need to have a male tree close by to enable this to happen.

A woodpecker drilled its serenade as we headed back towards the car. The ground beneath our paws had been scuffed up by some of the woodland residents in their search for food. This place is the perfect home for badgers and pole cats have been seen here too.

We had seen very little colour on our walk until the very last track down to the car and here clusters of cheery bright yellow daffodils lit up our path. Even Julie could smell the delicious, sweet scent.

Spring is definitely around the corner.

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