Oct 13 2021

Ancient Woodland Restoration at Wardsdown Wood

Last week the South East Outreach Team hosted a corporate volunteering event at Wardsdown Wood which is a large, privately owned ancient woodland located in the north-western edge of Flimwell, East Sussex.
Photo: Jim giving the morning briefing with the landowner.


Wardsdown Wood has some particularly fine areas of ancient woodland habitat, including most notably the ‘gill’ and other wet woodland running along its northern and eastern boundaries, and numerous specious of conservation concern have previously been recorded on or near to the site. However much of the site has been considerably altered and degraded in recent decades by the establishment of large exotic conifer plantations, and the invasion of various exotic small trees and shrubs from neighbouring gardens and other plantings.


Western hemlock shaded footpath.  Before and after photo. 

These ‘invasive non-native species (or INNS for short), including rhododendron, cherry laurel and young western hemlock trees here, have a strong tendency to spread through woodland understoreys rapidly, and can overwhelm the native trees, shrubs and ground flora, primarily by heavily suppressing the understorey, shrub and ground layers of the woodland, through shade, competition for other resources, and ‘allopathic’ chemicals exuded into the soil below. These species are of very limited value to wildlife: their non-native nature means that few species have evolved to utilise them. In the case of rhododendron and laurel, they also tend to create a dense impenetrable litter of leaves and brash that do not rot down easily.

Tool safety briefing
Thankfully, with the help of the Woodland Trust, a small workforce of volunteers started to tackle one of the invasive non-native species which is found on the site – western hemlock.  With the aid of loppers and bow saws the teams from corporate partners Avison Young, M&S, Sofology and OVO Energy transformed an area next to a footpath which runs alongside the gill and was identified as a priority area by Outreach Advisor Jim Smith Wright.
“It was marvellous to work with our corporate partners over these two days.  We cleared a significant area by the gill and the work has already unveiled alder buckthorn and sessile oak maiden trees that were being shaded out.  Alder Buckthorn is an ancient woodland indicator species and the foodplant for the brimstone butterfly.
Working together with private landowners we can increase opportunities to restore our native broadleaf woodlands and increase biodiversity.  Chris, the landowner, is delighted with the impact we’ve made and is keen to host more volunteering opportunities at the wood – it’s a winning solution for an extensive issue facing our woodlands!”
Jim looking pleased to find an alder buckthorn maiden tree after an area was cleared. 
A massive thank you to our corporate partners for supporting the event and helping us to engage a wider audience in our work to protect woods and trees!
Photo: Representatives from Avison Young
You can learn more about how we restore ancient woodlands by visiting our website click here. 
Words written by Outreach Advisor, Jim Smith-Wright and Lucy Shea, Volunteer Development Officer
Pale tussock moth caterpillar.  Violet webcap mushroom.
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