Anyone that has driven through the nearby country of Wiltshire would have largely been faced with endless stretches of green over rolling hills. It might come as a shock to learn, however, that it is only made up of 3% ancient woodland, 8% of woodland cover in total. Much of it is farmland (around ¾). So preserving what woodland there is left in the county is vitally important.
Great Wood, near Grittenham, which covers 71 hectares or 175 acres, is a part of Wiltshire’s ancient woodland that until recently was under threat. Wiltshire Wildlife Trust recently announced it had purchased the land, however. Planning to transform it into a nature reserve and prevent it from being sold off to multiple landowners.
But Wiltshire Wildlife Trust states that Great Wood is still in urgent need of restoration. Ancient woodlands often have delicate and complex ecosystems, developed over hundreds of years.
Some species of butterflies – such as the wood white, pearl-bordered fritillary and purple emperor – and birds – such as nightingale and willow warbler – are only found in ancient woodlands. And a lot of work is needed to attract wildlife back to the area, plus prevent more species from disappearing.
“This is a unique opportunity for us to preserve what is probably the largest collection of wild service trees in the country as well as fantastic stands of oak,” said Gary Mantle, Chief Executive of Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. “We will restore it to a fully functioning ancient woodland ecosystem, increasing biodiversity whilst ensuring it is more resilient to the impacts of climate change.”
To begin with, the Trust will reintroduce a mix of native broadleaf trees such as oak, sycamore and rowan to the nature reserve. Plus, it will create glades, widen paths, coppice trees and remove invasive plants. While the Great Wood’s existing large pond – which is currently home to a huge variety of mammals, amphibians, insects and plant life – will also be restored, as well as a second one created.
Wiltshire Wildlife Trust aims to have 30% of Wiltshire managed for nature by 2030. The Great Wood is located near the Braydon Forest and two other Wiltshire Wildlife Trust woodland nature reserves. Working with local farmers and other landowners, the Trust hopes to connect these ancient woodlands and hedgerows to allow woodland butterflies, birds and mammals to move between different habitats.
The transformation of Great Wood will be assisted by partners Butterfly Conservation, Braydon Forest Farm Cluster, Wiltshire Botanical Society and Wiltshire Ornithological Society.
The purchase was made possible thanks to a grant from Biffa Award. A multi-million-pound fund that awards grants to community and environmental projects across the UK. To learn more about Wiltshire Wildlife Trust head here.