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  • Julie Muller

MONK WOOD- Broom Handles and Butterflies

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

(Nearest post code - WR2 6NX)

Visited by Shep and Zak

At last, some sun! Springtime has finally arrived and all of the special places that Shep and I like to visit are waking up after their winter sleep.

This afternoon we came to explore Monk Wood which is another nature reserve owned and managed by Worcestershire Wildlife Trust. This one is also looked after by the Butterfly Conservation Society because of the numbers and varieties of butterflies and moths that live here. In recent years, over 36 different species have been recorded including some very rare ones like the Wood White. However, it is far too cold to see any of them today!!

Shep, a Border Collie, walks along the paths in Monk Wood
Shep enjoying a walk in Monks Wood SSSi in Worcestershire

It was a lovely sunny afternoon for our visit. At first the track beneath our paws was firm and dry. On each side of us the vegetation graded from low scrub to small multi-stemmed hazel trees and furthest away from the path tall beech and grey alder trees scraped the sky.

This wood is a site of ancient woodland and remnants of that historic woodland still persist. However, over many years Monk Wood has been managed to produce timber and it is this woodland management that has created all of the different habitats that support so many different species of butterfly.

In the 1950’s the wood was purchased by a paintbrush producing company called L.G. Harris and they used the timber to make broom and paint brush handles amongst other things. The trees were cut down (coppiced) at a low level so they produced multiple poles and this allowed light to reach the forest floor and enabled more plants to grow there. This extra light is particularly useful in the spring and the path led us through enormous swathes of blue bell leaves. We saw lots of wild garlic leaves too. Our noses twitched in anticipation of the scents of things to come!!

Zak, a Border Collie, walking in Monk Wood SSSI in. Worcestershire
Zak enjoying his walk in Monks Wood, Worcestershire

Most of the paths today were dry and firm but in several places they were still wet and sticky with mud and we all had to cling to the edge of the path to avoid sinking up to our haunches. Here the bramble ripped at our coats as we scraped past and we had to be very careful to avoid trampling on clumps of happy yellow primroses basking in the early spring sunshine. We tried to stick to the path. Further away from the path slender white wood anemone flowers were unfurling their delicate petals.

There are many other invertebrates, apart from butterflies, that like to live in Monk Wood. Over 80 species of spider and 100 species of beetle have been recorded here. One of these, the glow worm is particularly interesting but Shep and I would need to come here on a warm summer evening to see them.. Normally the beetle lives on the ground feeding on slugs and snails but when the time is right the drab looking females climb up a plant stem and emit an orange, green light from their bottoms to attract a suitable male companion,. The males have excellent photosensitive eyes to see their glowing mate.

Another amazing insect that lives in the leaf litter is the land caddis fly. This little fly is only found in Worcestershire and its neighbouring counties.

Caddis flies usually live in water and of the 200 species of Caddis fly that live in the UK, there Is one species that lives permanently on land. The grub of this little fly lives in the leaf litter within a little case that it builds out of sand grains. The adult flies do not emerge until late summer and, within a month of emergence, they will have mated, the resulting eggs will have hatched into larvae which will build cases of their own.

The wood was very peaceful today. Only two bumblebees buzzed past us and we met only one dog and his human. They were really excited to tell us about two muntjac deer that they had just seen.

There is so much wildlife here that we are completely ignorant of.

Monk wood is a monitoring station for dormice. These tiny, ginger coloured rodents spend seventy five per cent of their year hibernating under logs and grass tussocks. If conditions are really bad and the food is scarce they can lower their body temperature and enter a state of torpor until conditions improve. During their waking hours, they shimmy high up into the tree canopy where they feast on buds, hazelnuts, berries and insects.

It was such a lovely afternoon and Julie couldn’t resist having a look in the pond to see if there were any toad or frogspawn in it. Sadly, she couldn’t see any today. There was a wooden fence which stopped Shep and I from jumping in and disturbing the water. This is really important because great crested newts live here and the male newt relies on clear water to show off his elaborate courtship display to potential mates. If the water was too murky she wouldn’t be able to see and all of his efforts would be wasted!! If breeding is successful then the female will wrap up 200 eggs individually with in the leaves of pond plants.

We had had a wonderful walk in Monk Wood today. As we left, the sun shone through the pussy willow buds turning them into mini lanterns against the sky, the hazel catkins swung like little lambs tails and the air smelt expectantly of spring flowers soon to burst into bud, and yet, there is so much happening that we can’t see.

There is definitely more to life than meets the eye.

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