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Local Wildlife Sites
Ape’s Grove (Ep96) is known locally as 'Bluebell Wood' and is a wonderful semi natural ancient woodland. It lies to the west of Abridge Village and is accessed via a public footpath from New Farm Drive, Abridge. The wood is bounded by an impressive ditch and bank which encloses a woodland stand of mainly hornbeam coppice, with occasional oak and ash standards. It has a sparse ground flora due to the heavy shade created by a largely closed canopy. Despite this a spectacular carpet of bluebells still dominate in springtime along with dog’s mercury and the occasional primrose. The wood lacks any established rides with access via an informal single circular route. There are a number of notable trees within the wood including a wonderful large wild service tree, an ancient field maple coppice and a number of large hornbeam and ash coppice stools.
Great Wood and Mutton Corner
Great Wood and Mutton Corner (Ep106) are, in fact, joined and form the largest block of woodland on the former Lambourne Hall Estate. A small stream runs through both woods leaving a strip of hornbeam coppice on the north-western edge. The rest to the south (all in Great Wood) contains common oak and ash standards over hornbeam and hazel coppice. There are a number of ancient woodland indicator plants recorded in the wood giving clues to its biological richness and age. Banks and ditch earthworks mark the boundary of the wood although this varies greatly in character. For example, the ditch on the eastern side is massive whereas those on the southern edge are shallow and topped with hawthorn. An old ride system still exists within Great Wood.
Like the other woods in the area, a lack of recent management means the ground flora has been shaded out by the canopy, but dog’s mercury and bluebells still dominate in spring. There are areas of dense bramble. Where the canopy is less dense along the rides more herb rich species can still be found such as wood sorrel and violets. Great Wood also has several ponds, often dry, which add to the mosaic of habitats.
Woodland work in the Lamborne woods, 2019
To address issues of lack of management, woodland work is to be resumed in 2019. Apes Grove and Great Wood are designated Ancient Semi Natural Woodland (ASNW), which have developed under the traditional coppice with standards system. Coppicing is a historic technique to produce firewood and timber, which involves cutting “stools” or the previous growth, to ground level, so that they can re-shoot quickly. Areas within a woodland block are coppiced on a fairly short cycle, so that there can be an ongoing patchwork of different ages and heights of coppice and seedling regeneration, providing constant habitat for biodiversity. Natural British flora and fauna have co-evolved with this system over thousands of years.
Coppicing will be resumed in Apes Grove and Great Wood as part of a new programme to improve woodland habitat and biodiversity across Essex County Council woodland estates. The larger standard trees are part of the coppice system, usually grown for timber on their own, much longer cycle. A proportion of standards are usually retained in a coppice compartment providing a variation in heights, ages and habitats. Seed trees will be retained for seeding into the newly open area, where plenty of light allows for germination. Female ash may be left as seed trees where they are visibly unaffected by the new ash dieback disease, as well as other species which are less common in the compartment, to maintain diversity. Shade trees are also retained to keep direct sun off the stems of oak standards. This makes a healthy environment for regeneration and resilience to climate change.
The tops of the trees are termed “brash”, which can appear quite considerable after woodland work. This disappears in a few years, after doing a job of protecting regenerating stools and seedlings, or where it has been laid down as a mat to protect the woodland floor against compaction by machinery.
Prior to starting work, the area is surveyed for potential bat roots and other protected species’ habitat. This includes birds in the nesting season. If any are found, that section of the work is protected by a buffer zone and resumed at a later date.
There will be some light thinning in the young plantation areas of Ape’s Grove, planted after the storm of 1987. Much of the goat willow will be removed to make space for the young trees.
There are a number of Turkey oak in the Southern area of Great Wood. These have a low benefit for biodiversity and cross pollinate with our native oak. This makes them hybrids and unsuited to ancient woodland. A number of these will be removed.
The middle section of Great Wood will have a selective thin, essentially a "halo" thinning around the oak, or removing some stems or stools to create enough light for seedling regeneration and diversifying the structure. Although ash dieback is an unwelcome part of the woodland condition, a lot of ash will be retained where they are away from the footpath. With canopy gradually thinning and increasing light to the woodland floor, they will provide a wealth of deadwood for invertebrates to colonise, with associated increase in food for birds. There will be supplementary planting after the coppicing, to establish a new generation of standard oak, as well as to provide increased species diversity.
Jubilee Plantation, Halfmoon Wood and Conduit Wood will have some thinning to lighten the canopy, increase ventilation and encourage the healthiest oak. In doing this, they will also develop a shrub layer, wild flowers and natural regeneration at ground level. With more light and warmth under the canopy, this will increase habitat for biodiversity.