Thursday, 3 January 2013

Denge Woods, New Year's Day 2013

Today we went for a stroll through the lovely Denge Woods, near Canterbury. Dating back to at least 1600, Denge Wood is part of a semi-natural ancient wood complex on the North Downs.

Mainly sweet chestnut coppice, it stands alongside an area of former chalk grassland, known as The Warren, and this combination provides an interesting wildlife habitat, particularly for the rare Duke of Burgundy fritillary butterfly, a butterfly that has seen a sharp decline in numbers over the last 20 years. As it particularly loves woodlands with sunny coppiced clearings and grassy areas, Denge Woods is ideal habitat and the butterfly exists in three separate colonies in the wood,
jointly owned by the Forestry Commission, the Woodland Trust
and a private individual. These individuals have set up a special project to help the butterfly thrive in the woods through a targeted forestry management plan. The
creation of a ‘wildlife corridor’ will link the colonies, ensuring the butterfly's
survival. Plans include the creation of a strategic wildlife corridor measuring 1km by 40m to link three isolated colonies of the Duke of Burgundy; woodland corridor and track-side coppicing, and clearance of invading scrub; more wildflowers including primrose (primula veris),
the Duke of Burgundy’s principal foodplant, and locally/nationally rare orchids.

There are a number of entrances where you can park up and wander into the woods. We went to an area that we hadn't been to before and were pleasantly pleased by what we saw! Wide paths enabled easy walking through swathes of trees, both upright and fallen many years ago, covered in moss.
We walked through muddy tracks as well and eventually stumbled upon a group of twitchers armed with binoculars and scopes. Questioning them revealed that they were waiting for Hawfinches to arrive and come to roost atop the trees. They had seen 4 the day before but today the hawfinches were a bit late in arriving! Hawfinches are endangered and have reached the RSPB's red level of conservation importance meaning their populations have decreased severely over the last 25 years and they are now globally threatened. Unfortunately I have no hawfinch photo of my own to post here! However, a Google search will reveal all, a lovely little colourful bird.

The woods were very mossy in places, lending a lush green splash of colour to the rather drab brown of the bare trees. The photo below is sphagnum moss, and very pretty it is too!

Our meanderings led us to what can only be described as an avenue of broom! This was a lush oasis with both sides of the path swathed in broom plants. When in flower, these plants produce masses of yellow pea-like flowers loved by bees. I must remember to come back here when they are in flower, I am sure the sight will be spectacular and humming with bees.

There were also attractive dead seed heads of Willowherb and Foxgloves, which created interest amongst the other plants.

The sun was out all afternoon and at one point struck a lovely old gnarled tree and lit it up.

We returned back to the car a bit muddy but full of further love for these wonderful woods.

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