Below is a look at some of the plants and animals you can see in the woods. The Friends of West Earlham Woods run regular conservation activities in the woods. You can find more about what we do and how you can get involved here.There is more about how we are working to conserve the woods and increase the biodiversity here.
These woods are a County Wildlife Site and a Local Nature Reserve. They are in all about 30 acres in extent and are largely mature mixed broadleaf trees. So expect to see oak, beech, sweet chestnut, ash, lime, hornbeam, sycamores well as some Scots pine and yew. There are impressively large specimen trees (some perhaps 250 years old) and young saplings.
The oldest maps we have show the woods with largely the same boundaries as now. In the 1850s they were described as plantations. It seems likely that existing woodland was replanted, perhaps as part of the Earlham estate. The mature trees all seem to be about the same age. There are some ancient woodland plants such as bluebells, ramsons, midland hawthorn and field maple. Now they are very much urban woodland almost surrounded by roads and houses. Nevertheless they are home to many plants and animals as well being much used by local residents.
The best way to see some of the animals is to visit alone: be still and quiet – and patient – while you listen and watch. You might see a fox, a wood mouse, deer (perhaps muntjac, perhaps roe) and you will almost certainly see squirrels. At night you may hear an owl or see bats. There are a surprising number of different bats about the woods.
Get the time of the year and the time of the day right and you’ll hear and maybe see a large variety of birds: jackdaws and jays, tits and wrens, nuthatches and woodpeckers, pigeons and stock doves – maybe even a sparrowhawk. Very early morning in spring is best. There are smaller creatures too: many that live in the dead wood and the leaf mould. Don’t disturb them too much: wasps don’t like being disturbed! At night a bright light will attract a lot of moths (which perhaps helps explain all the bats).
The plants are easier to find: they don’t move around. But even so the more you look, the more you see. To begin with maybe all you see is trees and brambles and it all looks a bit the same. In fact, as you get to know the woods you’ll find that different parts have a different feel.
In Bunkers Hill there are lots of sycamores with multiple stems because once they were coppiced. There is a lot of elm scrub, the remains of elm trees that succumbed to Dutch Elm disease. Some of them grow surprisingly tall. They are decked out with flowers and seeds in spring, looking as if they were in full leaf well before any leaves come out. In spring there is a carpet of bluebells in the south, of cow parsley in the north. There are a few tall mature beeches and sweet chestnut as well, and oaks on the lower bit sloping down toward the river.
There are lots of sweet chestnuts in Twenty Acre, and yes you may find some big enough to eat in the autumn. And not all the ground hugging thorny things are brambles: some are wild raspberries. Try foraging. Though only forage for fungi if you really know what you are doing! The beeches are often on the high part of the wood, the oaks on the lower slopes. The lower part of Twenty Acre wood is dominated by semi-mature oaks. The connecting belt between the two woods is very narrow with some splendid mature trees but lots of gaps in the tree line.
These woods are a County Wildlife Site and a Local Nature Reserve. The Friends of West Earlham Woods run regular conservation activities in the woods. You can find more about what we do and how you can get involved here.
There is more about how we are working to conserve the woods and increase the biodiversity here.