I spent a wonderful few hours at Bank Woods on Monday 30th April 2018, in the company of Nigel Heptinstall. He is a local man and an enthusiast for nature and the environment. He kept denying that he is an expert, but he is certainly very knowledgeable about the locality, its history and flora and fauna.
He pointed out many ‘man made’ features in Horse Coppice, including the circular remains of what were likely to have been charcoal pit-steads, and also more substantial structures which may have been tanning pits. Coppiced branches from the woodland would have had the bark peeled off before being used to make charcoal. The bark would be used in the traditional method to turn an animal hide into leather. This was a useful trade to supply the mills in nearby villages, which used leather straps on their machinery.
We also spotted many wild flowers, lots of them considered ‘indicator species’ for ancient woodland. These included:
• bluebells, not quite yet fully in bloom, and one example of a rare white mutation
• the leaf florets of foxgloves
• flowering wood sorrel
• flowering wood anemone
• flowering barren strawberry
• flowering coltsfoot
• flowering lesser celandine
• flowering early purple orchid
• dogs mercury
• flowering violets
We also heard or saw lots of birds, including:
• black headed gull
• willow warbler
• chiff chaff
• black bird
• blue tit
• possibly a juvenile kestrel
The visit got me thinking how much there is to learn from Ancient Woodland, and what a precious habitat it is. If you would like to support us in protecting it so that nature can thrive there, and other people can enjoy it and learn from it, we have lots of ways you can help. You can dedicate a new tree or sponsor an ancient tree, or give the everlasting gift of a ‘living bouquet’.