Ancient woodland is quite scarce throughout the whole country now and much of it
is classified as SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). However, this does not
mean it is immune to loss or permanent damage, even our National Forest is under
constant threat. Ancient forest is not just woodland, it is the only near complete,
undamaged ecosystem that we have left in Britain.
The Stour Area, still has patches and some sites that contain remnants of Ancient
Woodland, These can often be identified by the presence of naturally growing Bluebells.
Bluebells can only survive in ancient woodland soils or on sites that have not been
over cultivated since its removal. The reason being, only ancient woodland soil contains
the symbiotic fungal partners that Bluebells need to grow.
(See secrets of the soil) Plants like Bluebells, that are so specific in their needs,
are often used by scientists to determine habitat types, these are referred to as
Most of the local woodland has been managed over the centuries for different reasons
and probably more intensively in the past. In years gone by, coppicing produced several
stems from a single stool, these were cut on a cyclical routine depending on size
and the intended use. This created areas of dense low cover in some areas of the
wood and some areas that were cleared, with just the living stools or stumps remaining.
These areas were quickly colonised by flora from the existing seed bank, producing
a mass of wild flowers and plants which encourage insects including the Wood White
(right). After a few years, the area would again become overshadowed by the new growth
from the stools, stealing the light from the woodland floor. Many wild flowers species
would disappear, leaving only their dormant seeds, until the area is again coppiced.
This type of management, creates a very rich and diverse habitat full of wildlife
which will include many species of fungi like the colourful but toxic Fly Agaric