By John O’Sullivan
On a fine evening in early May 2013, fourteen of us met at Hatley Village Hall to walk around Buff Wood with Mark Ricketts. Mark works for our local County Wildlife Trust, overseeing the management of their reserves in Cambridgeshire and working in close cooperation with landowners, in this case the Hatley Estate.
We had a relaxed and fascinating time among the bluebells, wood anemones, archangels and other common plants, as well as learning to recognise scarcer species such as herb paris and Goldilocks buttercup – and puzzling over primulas, particularly the oxlip, for which this wood is famous.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the evening was learning about past management, and in particular the work that the Trust is doing now.
They are creating a mosaic of habitats within the wood, based on centuries-old techniques that preserve large ‘standard’ trees, like oak, alongside ‘coppice’ of young, regularly-cut species, such as hazel. Shade-loving and sun-loving plants can thus both be encouraged, together with the wide range of animals that depend on them.
There are some formidable challenges – fallow and muntjac deer, for instance, both heavy browsers, must be excluded from some areas by the use of fences. Nor must the wood be kept too ‘tidy’, as many species are dependent on standing and fallen dead wood.
Management has served Buff Wood well for centuries, and continuing change to a wood we love is all part of ensuring that it will still be here to delight our successors for hundreds of years to come.
Warm thanks to Mark for taking the time to share his knowledge and experience with us.
Thanks also to Philippa Pearson for organisation and the photographs: a goodly sum was raised for Hatley St George church.
There’s more about the local Wildlife Trust on its website – www.wildlifebcn.org – or phone 01954 713 500.
First published on the original Hatley website in May 2013; minor changes made on 4th July 2018.