Larks and woodpeckers at Bunkers Hill
Bunkers Hill , which is only a stone’s throw from Wollaston and Stourbridge, has everything I want in a wood. About 102 acres in size, it is surrounded by pasture and some arable land and it contains a mixture of broad-leaved trees and conifers with a number of veteran oaks, sweet chestnut, and Scots and Corsican pine. There is wonderful stand of specimen hybrid rhododendron, dating back to the days when the wood was managed for shooting, and these produce a magnificent display of large, brightly coloured blooms which can be seen from some distance. A diversity of paths criss-cross the site, providing a variety of habitats, and this means that even at busy times it is easy to find peace and tranquility. There is even a secret bluebell walk! On warm, sunny days the many open glades are full of butterflies and increasingly varied displays of wild flowers where work has been done to clear the areas of invasive bracken, bramble, and balsam.
All the woodland birds I would expect are found here, including thrushes, great spotted woodpecker, tree creeper and tawny owl, and I often hear the laugh of the green woodpecker. And then there are the Scandinavian visitors in Winter and in Summer several species of warbler so that the music varies throughout the year. I often see linnets, yellow hammer, finches and even, on occasions, spotted flycatcher in the hedgerows. When I climb the fairly steep rather pebbly slope to the top ridge of the wood, I am rewarded with views of the Clent Hills, and on the one slope I can see the Malvern Hills and lower down, Kinver. It is here that I hear the larks, such welcome heralds of Spring and I see the hunting kestrel, the soaring buzzard, and hear the ‘cronking’ and the slow beat of the wings of the raven as it passes over. Wheatear stop over briefly on the fields before journeying on.
The wood is one of a number managed by a site manager for the Trust, and contractors are brought in for maintenance work with the aim of as little intervention as possible, except where necessary for the health and safety of visitors, and to improve biodiversity. A few years ago it was decided to ask some of the regular visitors to become volunteer wardens and I was happy to take on the challenge. There is a small group of us and our role is quite informal. Whenever we visit the wood, we act as eyes and ears of the site, reporting any hazards or problems, picking up the odd piece of litter, chatting to other visitors about the wood, and meeting up occasionally for a balsam bashing session which is highly therapeutic! It feels a privilege to be able to give something back when I am so lucky to have this free access to such a beautiful place, right on my doorstep.
Bunkers Hill is situated on Whittington Hall Lane. Grid ref SO875824
It can also be accessed via a stile on Sugar Loaf Lane, and from the bridleway at the junction of Westwood Avenue and the Roman Road
Wendy Wilkins: Woodland Warden at Bunkers Hill
Feature image: WTML / Jim Smith-Wright
All other images by Wendy Wilkins