Out in the woods: May 2013

The two thoughts uppermost in our minds must surely be 'are we ever going to get some warm weather and will spring ever arrive?'

Having said that, it could be that by the time you are reading this at the end of April we will be basking in long hot, sunny days - who knows with the unpredictable weather we have, but let us hope so.

We will certainly need a little more warmth and sunshine if we are to see any flowers on our ‘Bluebell & Cowslip’ walk on the 20th April; I will be reporting on the success, or otherwise, of this guided walk next time. The other walk I will be commenting on is ‘Woodland Birds and Birdsong’ which takes place in April. I would like to think the birds will be out and about, in spite of the cold air, as I am looking forward to this walk with Wood Warden, Murray Brown; at least the Greater Spotted Woodpeckers have been, noisily, making themselves heard for some time. This was a most popular first time walk last year which I was unable to join so here’s hoping for some cooperation from the birds and weather. You will of course have put both these dates in your diary following publication of the March magazine?

From the adjacent list of Guided Walks you can see that the Wood Wardens, Peter Cade and Gary Dobrin, will be taking us on a ‘Discovery Tour of the Woods’ on 18th May, surely we will be fully into Spring by then ! In any event, please do come along and join us for this always interesting, informative walk, and even more so if you are not over familiar with the layout of our unique woodland and its history.

On the 14th February, we hosted a group of about 50 children from Applecroft School and took them on a tour of the wood as part of a school project, accompanied by several wood wardens and teachers, as well as photographer Iain Green of BBC’s Springwatch giving some of the pupil’s excellent advice on using a camera and taking pictures. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the walk in spite of the really appalling depth of mud covering all the paths and making walking very difficult. All the children were very well behaved and interested in their surroundings, and remarkably no one slipped over in the mud (not even me!); a pretty good achievement for a two and a half hour walk in such conditions.

During the walk we saw the wood wardens at work, but on their coffee break, in Brocks Wood where they are coppicing Hornbeam to create dormouse habitat. What a very happy day it will be when we see signs of dormouse occupation. The intention is to plant Hazel and Oak in this area, which in a few years time will develop into thick vegetation, ideal for birds and small mammals.

In March we had another group of people from Carers in Hertfordshire, which is a charity, run by carers for carers. A party of twelve, escorted by three wood wardens, braved the cold and mud for a two hour walk which everyone enjoyed. I was very interested to talk to Kay, the group leader, since I had no ideas that such a supportive organization existed. They offer help to anyone looking after a friend or family member who, due to age, physical or mental illness, substance abuse or disability, requires assistance. They also run a free programme of courses and activities to help carers gain knowledge and skills, have a break from caring and some time for a life of their own, which must be so necessary under what can be difficult circumstances. If you would like to know a bit more about Carers in Hertfordshire you can ring 01992 586969.

Regular walkers in Sherrardspark Wood will not have failed to observe that the proposed conservation work has started with the Removal of Sycamore in New Wood and Ride Restoration between Six Ways and Sherrardspark Road.   It all looks very thin and bare at the moment doesn’t it?   However, we have had the same concerns in the past when fairly drastic work has been undertaken and have then been amazed at how quickly the woodland recovers, albeit in a different way, when regeneration gets underway. It is future generations that will see the benefit of the work being carried out now, and I can assure you that great thought, advice and consultation has taken place between WHBC, Natural England, the Forestry Commission and Sherrardspark Wood Wardens to ensure all the work is in accordance with the agreed Management Plan for Sherrardspark Wood as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Local Nature Reserve.

Some years ago I wrote about the ‘Shakespeare Dell’ in the wood where in the 1930’s the local dramatic society performed plays for the public, and I mention it again as I was delighted to recently receive from a friend some photographs of Shakespearean productions I had not come across before.  Sadly, the site is now very overgrown but if you explore the area behind Reddings/Brockswood Lane you will come across a natural dell where all this took place. This area was known as the Reddings Plantation because of the many pine trees which were planted there as a resource but were not actually harvested until the 1950’s, by the then Development Corporation.   The density of trees and the ground cover of pine needles prevented undergrowth from taking over and thus created a perfect place for these fine productions to take place. The photograph with the young lady making a curtsy in the centre is one we have seen at other times (the mother and aunt of my late husband, Alastair, are in this one), but the others are the mentioned recent acquisitions from a friend whose mother appears in them. I have included the group of very regal looking ladies since it is quite possible someone may recognise a friend or relative; the only information I have is that the pictures were probably taken in 1937 and the person in the centre may be Marguerite Whiston, my friend’s mother. What a lovely insight into bygone, more gentle times before televisions and computers took over our lives!

With all these photographs I don’t think I have room to write much more, so just a reminder that if you would like to know more about the Sherrardspark Wood Wardens and the important conservation work they do Gary on 01707 375216 will be delighted to hear from you.

In the hope that the sun will eventually shine, warm us all up and, most importantly, dry up the mud let us look forward to the bluebells and spring flowers which will soon grace our most beautiful woodland – happy walking.

Marian Dawson

Sherrardspark Wood Warden

[This article is also published in Welwyn Hatfield Times Magazine May 2013]

 

coppicing in dormouse 4 Sharespeare's Dell prob 1937 Dell 1930_1 Dell 1930s Dell 1937