The Friends of West Earlham Woods
The Friends of West Earlham Woods are a group of local residents who are working to conserve the woods and help local people to explore the woods on their doorstep. We are always looking for more people to get involved. Come along to a conservation task or event, or sign up for our newsletter.
We run monthly conservation tasks to improve the site for wildlife and maintain paths, a bi-monthly litter pick and events in the woods such as bat walks, bird walks, art trails and picnics! All our upcoming events and conservation tasks are listed here.
As a local nature reserve (Norwich’s ninth) we have a management plan for conservation. One of our biggest problems is fly-tipping (especially in the connecting belt and back of gardens) and litter (along the paths). It is still a big problem but smaller than when we first started litter picking a few years ago.
Woods need some management. There is woodland regeneration happening naturally: you can see young saplings growing. But the trees are by and large all the same sort of age. We hope to help this along with some replanting: especially of Scots pine that doesn’t seem to be regenerating by itself at all.
There are a few natural glades: openings in the tree canopy where other woodland plants can thrive. That’s where you would expect to find woodland grasses and flowers such as foxgloves, Lords-and-Ladies, lesser celandine, campion, honesty and herb Robert – all of which are present in our woods. But brambles often dominate. We have started creating a new glade and clearing the brambles. We hope to involve residents and local children in planting some native woodland.
The paths also can become very narrow or muddy. We have widened the main paths through Twenty Acre Wood. This not only makes it more accessible and attractive but lets the light in. As a result more flowers have appeared: violets are now easy to see whereas before they were not visible, even if they were there. The hope is that a greater range of plants and flowers will attract more insects and birds (increased “biodiversity”). We have also put in some steps from the old green Larkman Lane: which hopefully increases community enjoyment of the wood.
This kind of work creates cut wood and brash. So when sycamores are coppiced (because they grow very big and shade other things out) habitat piles are made of the cuttings. The hope is that they will attract invertebrates and insects. The same is true of dead wood. This can be left standing or lying on the ground. As the tree decomposes it is host to a whole realm of life. Much of the life in a wood happens underground and inside dead and decaying trees. We glimpse it when fungi suddenly erupt, often in the autumn. It may look untidy – even not cared for. But it preserves and enhances the life of the wood.
Between the tall trees and the plants of the woodland floor there is – or should be – an “understory“. This is made up of shorter or younger trees and shrubs: elder, hazel, spindle, field maple, holly, ivy, honey-suckle, rowan and hawthorn are all present. But our understory is poor. We hope to plant some of these trees to enrich it. The understory and the plants of the woodland floor should also come together at the edge of a wood forming the most species rich part of the wood, providing the best habitat for birds and animals. Our West Earlham wood edge is largely houses and roads, not natural at all. The west side of Bunkers Hill is the best wood edge and is now bordered by a pedestrian and cycle path beside the care village. Maybe at some point some work could be done to enhance this valuable part of the woods.