Taking a walk at Fordham Hall Estate
I recently visited Fordham Hall Estate, which is the largest woodland creation site in Eastern England. Originally farmland (called Fordham Hall Farm) and gifted from an anonymous donor, around a quarter of a million trees have been planted along the River Colne. Site manager Jonathan Jukes met me at Fordham Hall to show me the various parts of the site which is made up of a mosaic of newly planted and young woodland, grassland and flower-rich meadows.
Ancient semi-natural woodlands can be found close to Fordham Hall Estate, with Hillhouse Wood, another Woodland Trust wood very close by. Native trees have been planted at Fordham Hall and these include a mix of hazel, hornbeam, plateau alderwood and oak. Ash was planted before the occurrence of ash dieback in the UK and sadly these young trees have succumbed to the disease.
The history of Fordham Hall Estate is very interesting; in 2002 the Colchester Archaeological Trust walked the site and found burnt and worked flints, which are evidence of a prehistoric settlement. Flint tools of this kind would have been used for working wood and scraping animal skins. The burnt flints would have been used as tools for cooking. Other artefacts found include a polished stone axe head, roman pottery and glass vessels, and finds suggest that there was once a large Roman building nearby. For many years the site has been used for crop growing, most recently to grow grain and potatoes.
The site supports a rich diversity of wildlife species. The river Colne runs through Fordham Hall Estate and its moderate fish population supports otter. A project run by Essex Wildlife Trust sought to restore the once thriving population of water vole, which had suffered a huge decline due to mink predating on them. Thanks to this project the water vole numbers are now increasing. Muntjac deer, rabbit and brown hare can be found here as well as bat species.
A number of bird species have been recorded on site – 57 in all, with 10 species of high conservation concern. On our walk we were fortunate enough to spot a bullfinch and could hear the beautiful spring song of the skylark. The wildlife meadows provide a rich source of nectar for a variety of invertebrate species, including many types of butterfly, for example skipper species, common blue and meadow brown and gatekeeper. Dragonfly and damselfly can be spotted around the River Colne.
Amanda Brookes – Volunteer Development Officer: Central England
Feature image: Fordham Hall Estate in Spring, Richard Faulks / WTML
Landscape image: Fordham Hall Estate, Richard Faulks / WTML
Hare image: WTPL Libby Owen
Bullfinch image: John Bridges WTML