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Love Somerset, love woodland

PUBLISHED: 09:00 26 April 2014

Thurlbear Wood. Photo by Matthew Marshall

Thurlbear Wood. Photo by Matthew Marshall

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Woodlands are good for the soul, says Stephen Moss, Somerset Wildlife Trust President

Stephen Moss

Stephen Moss is a TV producer, author and naturalist. His latest book TWEET Of THE DAY - A YEAR OF BRITAIN’S BIRDS FROM THE ACCLAIMED BBC RADIO 4 SERIES is out in April.

From badgers to bluebells, butterflies to beetles and woodpeckers to wrens, our woods and forests are home to an extraordinary range of creatures.

That’s because they are a truly three-dimensional habitat: existing on every level from beneath the soil to the very top of the tree canopy, providing countless opportunities for organisms to thrive.

But woods are very special for people, too. And that’s hardly surprising, for until comparatively recently Britain was an island of trees, blanketed with a dense layer of woods and forests.

These were as complex and intricate as any city; their ancient trees the equivalent of cathedrals or skyscrapers.

Be part of it

To mark its Golden Anniversary year Somerset Wildlife Trust is launching four major campaigns to celebrate some of the counties most treasured habitats and species.

The spring Love Somerset, Love woodland campaign kicks off with events taking place at two Somerset Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves - Quants Nature Reserve, on the Blackdown Hills, close to Churchstanton on April 5 and at Harridge Woods Nature Reserve on the Mendip Hills near Shepton Mallet on 12 April.

The free, family drop-in events, run 10am-4pm.

For more information contact Somerset Wildlife Trust on 01823 652400.

Woods and forests are, not surprisingly, deeply rooted in our culture: from Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks to the Teddy Bear’s Picnic and Wind in the Willows, part of our souls rest amongst the trees.

They are at once comforting and frightening – a relic of the days when children were told fairy stories to ensure that they did not venture too far into the woods, where danger might befall them.

Woodlands are one of the jewels in the crown of all our wild places. They may take a little time to give up their secrets, yet they are without question the richest habitat for wildlife in the whole of Britain, simply bursting with life – if you know where to look for it.

Somerset Wildlife Trust is doing fantastic work helping to regenerate traditional woodland at Thurlbear Wood Nature Reserve, off the A358 just east of Taunton.

For this and next winter, a hectare of land – an area the size of a football pitch – is being coppiced in the traditional way, with the wood used to create hurdles and rustic chairs. It may seem counterintuitive, but cutting back the trees in this way lets light reach the woodland floor, benefitting many of our spring flowers including bluebells – the nation’s favourite wild flower.

Birds such as the blackcap and willow warbler benefit too, as more light and warmth bring more insects, on which they and their young can feed.

Finally the new habitat is ideal for woodland butterflies, including the common speckled wood, but also less familiar species such as fritillaries.

Last spring I visited the site and listened to a nightingale singing in broad daylight – pouring its song out for what seemed like hours on end. It was a truly an unforgettable experience, which reminded me just how important our woods are, not just for wildlife, but for our souls too.

Make a donation and help the trust keep Somerset’s woodlands special for people and wildlife at somersetwildlife.org/50, text LEAF20 and the amount you would like to give (e.g. £10) to 70070 or call 01823 652400.

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