A spring walk among bluebells

Alice Johnson aLocated in the picturesque village of Stock, Swan Wood becomes awash with the lush violet display of bluebells from around April to June. Walking along the pathways into the woodland you can see the flecks of mauve colour appearing from around the tree trunks, as if someone was just adding colour to their painting. Walk a few more steps along the bare earth pathways and you will soon see the full canvas of delicate lavender blue dominating the woodland floor. The hornbeam coppice and birch trees are surrounded by this terrestrial flowering ocean; one of the greatest floral displays in the British calendar.

Swan Wood was originally purchased by The Woodland Trust in 1989 and now has a local volunteer group helping to maintain the area so that this beautiful ancient woodland is preserved, but also accessible for the public to enjoy. When you draw your attention away from the hypnotising allure of the bluebells you can see the thin limbs of the hornbeam coppice reaching for the canopy while the bluebells surround them. The oak standards reign tall over the deep blue display, having seen them flower many times before.

A prominent feature of the woodland is the deadwood and fallen trees found around the site. A fallen trunk lies strewn across the woodland floor, but life is still to be found in this precious resource as the bluebells grow over the fallen base, and the roots lay exposed to the world. Not only does this uncovered network of root and soil provide opportunities for invertebrates, but the fallen trees permit that extra bit of light to penetrate through the canopy, allowing a flourishing of growth and natural regeneration to occur.Alice Johnson 2

IMG_6628Woodland flora is rich at this time of year, as along with the bluebells there are the lesser celandine adding their bright sunshiny display, accompanied by the snow white of the wood anemones lining the well-trodden pathways. The yellow archangel further draws your attention with its zygomorphic yellow flowers making your realise that it is no ‘stinging nettle’; its saffron coloured flowers can be seen during April to June.

Along with the floral richness of the woodland are the bird species which nest and forage in the area. The birds sing frantically as you walk the pathways among the network of bluebells. The wren’s song explodes suddenly from the undergrowth, the characteristic trill making them recognisable, while the delicate song of the robin drifts amongst the fresh new growth of the trees. Chiffchaffs have since arrived from their overwintering grounds in southern Europe and Africa and are singing their name proudly across the woodland. A rustling in the foliage nearby alerts you to the presence of a male blackbird foraging amongst the debris, while a female flies straight across the woodland; a brown splurge zooming over the bluebell ocean.

A small stream runs through the woodland, and in some areas dark mud is exposed, which must have tempted many a dog and welly clad child. A slightly unexpected sight is the bamboo that grows in the woodland. It is a favourite with children and they have run amongst its tall stands so often a maze has been created where they can go inside and get lost in the darkness of this unexpected labyrinth.

Neighbouring Swan Wood is Cygnet Wood, so appropriately named by children from Stock Primary School, which was established in 2000 as part of The Woods on Your Doorstep project. Planted with a mixture of native trees, such as oak, ash and hornbeam, the woodland has a fresh feel to it. Walking along the path the wind blows the young trees and the limbs all swirl and creak together, but they continue to stand strong, and help create a woodland corridor across the landscape. The dappled sunlight shines onto the path, while a speckled wood butterfly flutters past.

Swan and Cygnet Woods provide an oasis of woodland beauty where the bird song distracts you from the noise of the traffic and the tumbling brown earth and strange shaped mounds hint that badgers may roam the area when night falls. Alice Johnson 3

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