Essex’s woodlands range in age from long-standing forests through which our ancestors hunted to modern-day plantations, which provide materials for building and paper. ‘Ancient woodlands’ have been under continuous tree cover for hundreds of years and often contain plants that are rarely found elsewhere, such as the diminutive herb-Paris.
Different trees characterise our woodlands. Broadleaved woods are composed of deciduous trees, mixed woods of both deciduous and coniferous trees, and conifer woods comprise non-native trees planted for timber.
Our woodlands come alive at dawn – tawny owls hoot to each other, and wrens, blackcaps and warblers fill the air with song. Great spotted woodpeckers, treecreepers and jays are regular visitors.
During the day, small herds of roe and fallow deer roam among the tree trunks and butterflies feed from flowers at the forest floor. At night, mammals such as foxes, bats, badgers and dormice may come out to forage and hunt.
In woodlands, dead and rotting wood is important for fungi and insects like the impressively horned stag beetle. But it’s the flowers that often make our woods so special. Carpets of bluebells, wood anemones and oxlips herald spring, and hoards of white ramsons can fill the air with the scent of garlic.