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  • Julie Muller

HAUGH WOOD - Flurries Of Butterflies In An Ancient Wood

Updated: Jan 31, 2022

(Nearest post code - HR1 4QX)

Visited by Shep and Zak

The weather has changed over the last couple of days. The long lazy hot days have been replaced with milder wetter weather and our humans took us back to another lovely Herefordshire Wood.

We last visited it last Autumn. Today, in early June, the trees are in full leaf but there are still not too many butterflies around although we know that this one of the best places in the county, if not the country, to see them...

Haugh Wood can be found to the South East of Hereford and close to the village of Mordiford.

Shep and I have visited Haugh Wood on several occasions recently and it is strange that although there are always lots of cars in the car park, we rarely encounter humans and their canine companions on our walks.

We have a choice of two possible marked trails– one leading directly from the car park and another which starts on the opposite side of the road.

Both trails are well signposted but there are also lots of interesting other paths leading off them. Shep and I were champing at the bit to explore them but Julie, our owner, decided to stick to the harder surfaced track. Signs at the start of the trail tell both cyclists and horse-riders that they are welcome here but they must stay on these hard tracks too. I kept my ears to the ground just in case anyone appeared from around the bend.

Haugh Wood is located on top of a hill called the the Woolhope Dome. Much of it has been converted into plantations of one type of tree – either conifers or hardwood trees like beech.

Looking through  stands of tall trees newly clothed in springtime foliage
Woodland shade under the trees in Haugh Wood, Herefordshire

Where there are stands of conifer trees, the ground flora is very limited as very little light can ever reach the forest floor. However, where there are plantations of broad leaved trees the amount of light reaching the forest floor changes seasonally so there is a greater variety of plants growing there.

Today in the Autumnal sunshine many of the trees had already lost their leaves and Shep and I chased through thick carpets of them. Only the oak trees seemed reluctant to shed their leaves but of course they had been the last to gain them in the springtime.

It is not these stands of identical trees that make Haugh Wood so special. Along the fringes of these plantations and along the edges of the forest paths/rides, there are lots of different trees which form pockets of semi-natural woodland – that is areas that contain a mixture of ancient woodland and of trees that have been planted more recently. It is exciting to think that there have been trees growing here since before 1600 when Queen Elizabeth was still on the throne and when the newly built Globe Theatre in London was staging some of Shakespeare’s most famous plays!! In fact the word Haugh in Haugh Wood pronounced “Hoff” is the name of an Anglo Saxon tribe.

Zak, a tricolour Border Collie sits down in Haugh Wood, trees are just gaining their leaves after the winter and there is a view towards Woolhope Dome in the background.
Zak enjoys a rest in Haugh Wood, Herefordshire

Within Haugh Wood there is a great variety of different mixtures of trees and shrubs and the plants and flowers growing underneath and this is why the wood is home to so many different butterflies, moths and other insects. On the acidic soils, bracken, gorse, broom and dog violet (preferred food of the high brown fritillary butterfly) thrive. In other places, lime-loving plants like wild liquorice, carline thistle and stinking hellebore predominate and in the wet areas around Pentaloe Brook, alder trees soak their roots in the saturated soil accompanied by pendulous sedge and, in the springtime, drifts of wild yellow daffodils.

These parts of the woodland are home and food source to over 650 species of butterfly and moth with 29 of them not found anywhere else in the country which makes Haugh Wood the best wood in Herefordshire for butterflies and moths. The rarest butterflies include the high brown and the pearl-bordered fritillaries, the wood white and the white letter hairstreak. Some of the moths have even more unusual names like the triple spotted pug and the barred hook tip to name but two.

Needless to say on a chilly Autumn day, we saw very few butterflies or moths about. There were however lots of information boards that told humans about the butterflies and moths that they could see. Shep dropped his ball to try to see what Julie was looking at but gave up after a while and came to bother me instead leaving his ball behind him. What an idiot!!

As we walked along the paths we noticed bright red guelder rose berries, misshapen orange and pink spindle fruits , drapes of old man’s beard and tufts of the remains of hemp agrimony flower heads.

A sunlit clearing - mixture of conifer and broadleaved trees and a magnificent oak tree in the  centre
In Haugh Wood - a magnificent oak tree

A sunny Spring afternoon and Shep, a tricolour Border Collie, enjoys walking on shady tracks in Haugh Wood Herefordshire
Shep loves walking along the shady paths in Haugh Wood, Herefordshire

However, I was more interested in stalking grey squirrels which scampered along the boughs of the trees above my head or high in the canopies of the trees. In fact Shep and I were so intent on looking up, we didn’t notice a stripy-faced, rich brown coated pole cat as it scuttled across our path in front of Julie. We were aware of the strong musky smell of badger along distinct animal paths leading off the main track and we saw the tell-tale signs of fallow deer hoof prints in the mud. However, nothing is more exciting than squirrel watching.

These woods are so special that it is not surprising that they need looking after. Four areas of woodland are managed as Nature Reserves by the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust and other areas of the woodland are also owned by the Forestry Commission and the National Trust.

Shep and I (and Julie) really enjoyed our walk here and would thoroughly recommend it to any of our canine cousins and their human owners at any time of the year !!!

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