Posted by: lensweb | May 3, 2018

Are There Bluebells in Risley?

A chiffchaff remarked and a song thrush sang when Erewash Tree Wardens visited a small wood at Risley in June. Pat Ancliff related the tale of how she came to own the 0.81 acre wood which is marked on the 1813 map by Eaton which actually shows a much larger wood either side of the current farm track.
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The wood used to belong to Woodpecker Farm but it was left, with 3 other packages of land, to a lady in America. After 2 years of cogitation she decided to sell and it was bought by Trixie, a local lady who then moved to a property with 11 acres of land in Sandiacre, and so Risley wood was sold to Pat.
The first task was to define the boundaries and preserve the woodland edge. The nearby paddocks and an abandoned underground reservoir behind, all have the same owner, a man from Sawley who has built a new stable block. Thanks to Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, now, the woodland edge is protected by a double fence with the new track to the stable block separating the wood and the grazing stock.
This fragment of climax oak woodland  was probably  once a part of Hopwell Forest. The preponderance of sycamore together with some young wych elm, suggests the oak used to be mixed with elm. There are several large beech trees, 3 hornbeams and a field maple with some hawthorn.
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This is a classic bluebell wood with native English bluebells. Other indicators of ancient woodland are Dogs Mercury  and wood anemone. Already present, Jack by the hedge or garlic mustard is the food plant for the orange tip and green veined white butterfly, red campion is a food plant  for rivulet and campion moth. There is also arum lily and foetid iris. Wildflowers such as native primrose, town hall clock, native snowdrop, nettle-leaved bellflower and goldilocks buttercup which grow nearby, may be introduced.

It is known that noctule bats are present in this locality it would be interesting to record which other species of bat are present and where they roost.

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Various ideas for future management were suggested by Erewash Tree Wardens.
  • Map the trees in the wood and carry out a full botanical survey.
  • Remove sycamore, uprooting seedlings and ring bark mature trees. Sycamore seeds prolifically, comes into leaf early and shades out woodland flora and bryophytes. The leaves and wood do not decompose easily and should be removed.
  • Consider succession, allow young oak and elm trees to grow, are beech and hornbeam to be replaced? The old beeches were possibly planted as part of the estate but to increase diversity the beech and hornbeam should not be replaced. Norman Lewis (former Notts Wildlife Trust Conservation Officer) suggested native wild cherry or gean, might be planted on the woodland edge. It is better to plant native elm. Despite the ravages of Dutch elm disease the elms should have ten years of useful existence before succumbing to the disease. It might also be worth discussing the merits of disease resistant elms. Do they carry similar numbers of native English insects such as white letter hairstreak butterflies, as native wych elm?
  • A silver birch has been planted. The silver birch is an introduction of a rapidly spreading coloniser into mature woodland with gaps which might be more in keeping, filled with young elm or oak
  • If an unusual tree is required, Norman Lewis suggested Norway spruce will attract goldcrest and coaltit, or a couple of Scots pine will not spread but will provide a variety of insects which otherwise would not be present.
  • The hedge is to be rejuvenated with hazel to encourage green hairstreak butterflies, (already present in Risley), buckthorn for brimstone butterflies and plum, crab apple support many species of moth and are typical of the local hedgerows. Norman Lewis suggested spindle and midland hawthorn. Blackthorn is good for insects but has a tendency to form thickets and get out of control. Elder is to be removed it spreads too fast and does not form a good hedge, one or two bushes might be left on the woodland edge.
  • Standing deadwood is to be left in situ, fallen boughs also. Certain favoured trees were already studded with woodpecker holes.
  • Piles of small branches and twigs will be refugia for small mammals.
  • Bramble is to be removed by uprooting to allow the woodland flora to develop.
  • Ivy is to be taken off the trees and discouraged on the ground.
 All changes to be gradual and with respect for the trees.
Pat plans to put a gate over the entrance, with a stile, allowing public access.
After careful observation, a clearing which catches the sun was chosen to be kept clear of trees and the Tree Wardens set to work  clearing bramble and uprooting sycamore,  the depth of the leaf mould making it relatively easy to remove.
Bluebells die if trampled, so defined paths were laid, using cut boughs of sycamore which does not easily decompose. What a wonderful opportunity to capture the essence of an English Bluebell wood and preserve it for posterity.29ix5s
Marion Bryce 10 June 2017

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