More than just heather: Part 2
Did you know that nestled within the heather-clad landscape of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area are two very special forests that are also home to rare ground-nesting birds? Bramshill Forest and Heath Warren Wood / Warren Heath.
At first glance you may think the looming blocks of pine in these commercial plantations, leased and managed by Forestry England, make for a wildlife-poor environment. But get out and explore and you’ll find a treasure trove of natural open areas, heather and grassland, pond and ditch networks, valleys, woodland rides and sandy paths. You’ll find all sorts of creatures using these different habitats.
The ponds teem with some of our rarer dragonflies and damselflies, and rare plants such as pillwort turn up. Managed woodland rides provide sunny edges, between mature pines, and tracks that insects and orchids adore. The mature pines provide optimal nesting areas for raptors such as buzzard, red kite and hobby, and crossbills visit to feed off the pine cones. Spend an evening watching nightjars feeding at dusk and you’ll also be rewarded with bats flitting around your head, as they travel along the woodland edges.
Remnants of heath, within the forests, are home to many traditional heathland species too – sundew and sphagnum moss in the wet areas, grayling butterflies on the gravel paths and pollinators feeding off the heather. Reptiles bask in the open areas, and enjoy lots of cover to retreat to.
Let’s not forget, these forests provide us with wonderful recreational space to escape to, clear our minds, spend time with family, learn more about the natural world and have fun.
So you see, there is infinitely more to a commercial forest plantation than meets the eye! For me, a visit actually feels a little like going on holiday 😀
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In 2019 Bramshill Forest won the Royal Forestry Society’s Duke of Cornwall Award for resilient, multi-purpose forestry.