The Woodland Trust – National Treasurers series
Our native trees and woods are incredibly precious, and have never faced such a sustained level of threat from disease, development and climate change. With over 400,000 members and supporters of this National Treasurer, it is the Woodland Trust’s job to protect these unique habitats for the people that love them and the huge numbers of wildlife which they provide a home for.
Here are just a few to visit, courtesy of Caravan magazine...
Glen Finglas, near Callander, The Trossachs
If you want to enjoy wild Scottish scenery, with views from 600 metres above sea level over remote lochs, you can do so without going too far north of Glasgow. In the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park there is a huge estate, bought by the Woodland Trust in 1996. Glen Finglas is a quiet landscape with panoramic views over Loch Venachar. There are buzzards and golden eagles and a valuable population of black grouse. This epic landscape even inspired an epic poem – Sir Walter Scott based The Lady of the Lake on nearby Loch Katrine.
Glen Finglas is at the eastern end of the Great Trossachs Forest, with the RSPB’s Inversnaid Nature Reserve in the west and Loch Katrine, managed by the Forestry Commission, in the middle. Eventually the forest will be one of the largest broadleaf woodlands in Britain.
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When reserve manager Sue Morris first moved into the area, she fell in love with the idea of managing Glen Finglas for the Woodland Trust. “I was so keen that I sent off my application while I was on honeymoon,” she says. “It’s an amazing place.” Sue’s team are planting new woodland at Glen Finglas and are creating the Great Trossachs Path, a 30-mile footpath from Callander to Loch Lomond. When finished it will connect The West Highland Way and The Rob Roy Way.
Head for Brig o’Turk or the visitor reception at the Woodland Trust’s estate office, Lendrick Steading FK17 8HR.
Green Castle Wood, Carmarthen
The new All Wales Path goes right through this beautiful wood.
There’s a reason why Green Castle Wood, two miles south of Carmarthen, is one of the most popular Woodland Trust reserves in Wales. It sits on the banks of the River Tywi and in spring it is positively loaded with wildflowers, including bluebells – the ancient woodland is rich in fragile ground-cover plants and there are wildflower meadows as well. The wood is named after a ruined castle, Castell Moel, which is on private land nearby.
Site manager John Mitchell came to work at Castle Wood last April: “It’s such a lovely woodland. We want to make it a resilient landscape,” he says.
His job has been to put the finishing touches on a three-year project to make Castle Wood better for visitors, whether human or otherwise. There are improved footpaths, new trees in buffer zones around ancient woodland, a new orchard, and new beehives in the orchard as well. “In the future, visitors will be able to pick and eat from a mixture of old and modern apple and pear varieties. The bees will pollinate the fruit trees and having the hives there will help conserve the bees at the same time.”
Park two miles out of the city just before you reach Llangain.
Wheeldon Copse, Alvanley, Cheshire
If you love gardening, prepare to be inspired by the spectacular show of wildflowers at Wheeldon Copse, which is on the slope of the Frodsham Hill escarpment near Alvanley. When you visit the copse and nearby Alvanley and Thorn Wood, you can expect to see mountains of wildflowers – so many you’d be forgiven for thinking that the woodland floor had been this way for years. In fact, this is new woodland, created using a revolutionary planting method called soil inversion. It’s been pioneered by the Woodland Trust with Landlife, the charity that runs the National Wildflower Centre in nearby Liverpool.
Wildflowers thrive on sterile subsoil, so a new ploughing method removes or buries the fertile topsoil, bringing soil to the surface from up to a metre’s depth. The result is a vastly more diverse wildflower population that’s attractive to wildlife. Wheeldon Copse is the first new Woodland Trust wood to have been sown with wildflowers in this way before the trees were planted, and it was planted with cornflowers, corncockles, corn marigolds and poppies, which you can see thriving today.
Take the Manley Road from the village of Alvanley. Parking can be a challenge!
Fingle Woods, Devon
Fingle Woods lie between two rambling National Trust estates – Castle Drogo and Steps Bridge. There has been no public access to much of this beautiful area of woodland for the last 10 years but that all changed recently and 45km of new trails around the site opened up. You can now ramble along the banks of the River Teign, or visit the Iron Age hillfort, Wooston Castle, or the Hidden Valley at Halls Cleave.
The Woodland Trust achieved this by joining forces with the National Trust to buy 825 acres of ancient woodland in Dartmoor. They’ve raised £3m out of a total of £5m needed to commit to the 20-year restoration. Work is already progressing to restore some of the 525 acres of ancient woodland, damaged and scattered by 20th century conifer plantations – that’s an area of land the size of 292 football pitches. Conifers will slowly be removed, allowing more light to reach the woodland floor.
The ancient woodland in this part of Dartmoor offers excellent chances to observe wildlife, including buzzards and sparrowhawks. There are kingfishers and otters on the Teign, which is renowned for its sea trout and salmon. The word ‘Fingle’ comes from the ancient English word ‘fang’, which means to catch.
There is parking at the 17th century Fingle packhorse bridge across the Teign Gorge near Drewsteignton. Or you can walk into Fingle Woods from Castle Drogo National Trust property. These roads are narrow and awkward for a caravan, so best pitch up before you visit. The team at Fingle Woods still needs to raise £2 million and will be looking to recruit volunteers as well.
Lake Wood, East Sussex
This woodland, close to the busy town of Uckfield, is one of the best-kept secrets of Sussex. It was once part of a huge country estate and its highlight is a path around the man-made boating lake, a path which ends at a tunnel cut into the rock.
Lake Wood is dominated by sandstone outcrops. There are also steps carved in sandstone, which lead to an underground boathouse. There are dormice in the wood and almost 60 bird species. In spring it’s richly carpeted in bluebells and wood anemones, yet despite all these natural attractions you can go there and have the wood to yourself.
It’s worth pausing in this magical place to appreciate that things might easily have looked very different here. In 2008 the Woodland Trust and other campaigners battled a local council plan for 750 houses to be built at Lake Wood. Fortunately, the Trust won the case and defeated a subsequent appeal.
Burntollet Wood, Co. Londonderry
If you like wildflowers you’ll love Burntollet, a brand new wood in the stunning Faughan Valley, south-east of Londonderry. One of the largest wildflower meadows in Northern Ireland is here. This, in turn, leads to there being a very healthy butterfly population.
The Woodland Trust has worked with the local community to plant thousands of trees at Burntollet, to provide an important buffer zone for ancient woodland at the nearby Ness Country Park. The hope is that as the trees grow, some of the Country Park’s wildlife will spread into Burntollet. The presence of red squirrels here is special because there are only about 100 red squirrels left in County Londonderry.
The Faughan Valley is a brilliant place to experience a wild and beautiful landscape just seven miles from the city. It’s very rich in ancient woodland, but is in scattered fragments so the Woodland Trust is working to join ancient woods with new woodland to create wildlife corridors. It’s just bought 53 acres of farmland at nearby Glenshane and is appealing for £500,000 to fund the planting there.
Park at Ness Country Park, BT47 3TR.
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