JANUARY SALE Subscribe for just £5 today CLICK HERE

Wildlife on the edge

PUBLISHED: 19:27 22 February 2014 | UPDATED: 19:27 22 February 2014

Great spotted woodpeckers

Great spotted woodpeckers

COPYRIGHTPHOTOGRAPHER

Woodlands aren't just about mighty oaks and yews, most of the wildlife action takes place at the edge where tall trees give way to shrubs and grass

When we picture woodlands it is likely that we might first think about the trees deep inside.

Perhaps majestic, silver-skinned 
beech trees, dark, mysterious yews or straight-trunked oaks thrusting their branches high up into the canopy.

Or we might think of the coppice trees - tall chestnut poles that clatter together in the slightest breeze. Or the sinuous hornbeam with intertwined cords of wood like the muscle in a weightlifter’s arms.

Asked about the wildlife in this wood, we might pause to think hard, because in the heart of the wood it is often still and quiet.

This is the world of the specialist - the woodpeckers, tree creepers, nuthatches and the elusive hawfinch.

Unless we are in a recently coppiced woodland, there may be few plants. This 
is the domain of the recyclers; the fungi and invertebrates going about their complex business largely unseen.

So little do we know about this world, that much that occupies the work of woodland ecologists seems far-fetched; more to do with fairy tales than science.

For it is possible that, through roots and fungi, trees may chemically talk to each other. They may even collectively send resources and nourishment to younger trees.

But most of the wildlife action in a wood takes place at the edge where the world of tall trees gives way to shrubs and grass.

The Forestry Commission considers 
that up to seventy per cent of all woodland wildlife lives within and relies upon the woodland edge. Many of these species may be commonplace, such as blackbirds, song thrushes, small mammals foraging for food, or woodland butterflies like the peacock.

Maintaining the woodland edge takes energy and skill to keep a dynamic habitat of grasses, flowers, brambles and thicket 
to provide a constant source of wildlife: friendly habitat and food in all seasons but especially towards winter’s end – the ‘hungry gap’ – when resources are scarce.

So important is getting our farmland birds through this critical time that some farmers grow crops to supply seed and, 
in some instances, buy in seed to feed the birds, just as you might in your garden.

The woodland edge may be even more important. As our ancient woodlands face more challenges we need to buffer and link them so that wildlife can move from one 
to the other through a ‘Living Landscape’.

Letting thicket and scrub gently creep around our woods, merging them with 
the grass and arable landscape is vital if 
we are to maintain our woodland wildlife.

Research into insect species, on 
which we depend to pollinate crops, suggests that many of them may rely 
on the woodland edge habitat.

Pollinators in the UK are estimated 
to be worth £510.2m annually to our economy, so letting our woodlands 
spread out a little may have more of 
a value than we first thought. n

More from Out & About

The season of romance is in the air and with fairytale castles, literary tales and iconic White Cliffs, where better to pop the question than in the Garden of England? Here are 10 of Kent's perfect places to propose

Read more

When funds are low and the family is going stir-crazy stuck indoors, here is some fun, free stuff to get you through

Read more
Mon, 16:04

The beautiful Hever Castle will launch snowdrop season with a talk followed by a woodland walk

Read more

Regularly voted one of Kent's best places to live, and with easy access to London, let's celebrate Sevenoaks

Read more
Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The elusive snowdrop can be hard to find and before you know it, they're gone again, so we saved you the trouble and found some beautiful spots in Kent to go for a walk among the snowdrops

Read more

Want to get fitter, feed your brain or start a new hobby? The National Trust can help kickstart your 2020 plans

Read more

The run-up to Christmas can be stressful, so escape for a while by spending time reconnecting with nature

Read more
Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Farmer Sandra Fagg adores Christmas and now she and husband Mike run their own reindeer centre and grotto

Read more
Friday, December 6, 2019

Counteract all that festive over-indulgence with a winter walk through National Trust-owned Kentish countryside

Read more
Friday, December 6, 2019

The swashbuckling panto opens this month to Dartford's Orchard Theatre and is sure to keep the whole family laughing

Read more
Kent Life Food & Drink awards. Open for entries.

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook


Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search

Most Read

Latest from the Kent Life