A walk in the woods

If you are lucky enough to live near ancient woodland, now is the time to go and look at and appreciate it. Woods are at their best in spring as the new growth starts to emerge and the new leaves are a vivid green. If you are really lucky, the woodland that you visit will be blessed with a carpet of spring flowers. Well I am one of the lucky ones, since our local South Cubbington Wood is decorated with thousands of wood anemone flowers (Anemone nemorosa) at the moment. As I write this the display is just about coming to its peak and has to be seen to be believed.

Wood anemone carpet in South Cubbington Wood (Rosemary Guiot)

The Cubbington Action Group against HS2 thought that we really must celebrate this natural miracle, particularly as we will not have the wood to enjoy for many more years if HS2 goes ahead. A series of four guided walks was organised to allow residents to appreciate the spectacle that Mother Nature has provided. These four walks proved so popular, with around one hundred and fifty people taking part in total, that a fifth has been added.

Wood anemones in South Cubbington Wood (Frances Wilmot)

Wood anemones are an indicator of how old a wood is, as they spread very slowly – a six-foot patch indicates one hundred years of development. An expert from the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust has told our Group that South Cubbington Wood is a fantastic habitat. It is officially classed as “ancient woodland”, which means that it pre-dates the year 1600, but it’s probably been there since the end of the last Ice Age.

Wood anemone flower (Frances Wilmot)

I have had the pleasure of taking part in a number of these walks and have been struck by the way that people respond; some are old nature hands, but for many it was a new experience. I particularly enjoyed the walk that was attended by a group of pupils from Year Two of one of our local primary schools. Comments from these six to seven year old schoolchildren included: “Brilliant”, “Awesome” and “I want to build a tree house and live here”.

An older girl in the group on one of the walks was so inspired that she wants to return with her sketchbook and many children were heard asking their parents if they could come back again.

Public footpaths allow good access to South Cubbington Wood, but with the kind permission of the landowner our walks were allowed to venture off the main paths to look at flowers, trees and, to the delight of our younger walkers, frogs and frogspawn in a woodland pool.

On emerging from the wood, everyone paused to take in beautiful views of the peaceful, rolling countryside of the valley of the River Leam before taking a short detour to view the recently-crowned National Champion wild pear tree (Pyrus pyraster).

The maps that show the path that HS2 will take through this countryside can be found here and here. The construction of the railway will destroy much of the wood and cut several public footpaths as it passes our village in a cutting about 100 metres (109 yards) wide and up to 19 metres (62 feet) deep. The Leam valley will be scarred by an embankment, rising to 9 metres (30 feet) where it crosses the river on a viaduct. And yes the wild pear tree will be grubbed out to make way for the railway. This same fate will also befall half a dozen rare wild service trees (Sorbus torminalis) in the wood.

I find it totally impossible to comprehend how the Government can sanction environmental vandalism of this magnitude. This is the complete antithesis of sustainable development. As I said in my blog of 30 Mar, the damage done will be irreversible; if you destroy ancient woodland you have lost it forever and planting any number of new trees will not bring it back.

According to the Woodland Trust, twenty-one ancient woodlands are under threat of direct loss from the HS2 proposals. Visit the Trust’s HS2 page here and click on the “Take Action Now” button to see the woods that are in danger. You will also be able to post a comment about South Cubbington Wood or any of the other twenty threatened ancient woods.

For the moment in Cubbington we can look forward to what this spring has yet to bring, the wild pear tree in blossom and the wood carpeted in bluebells. I am sure that we will cherish these events all the more knowing what the future may hold.

Other treasures seen on the walks (all photographs by Rosemary Guiot except the primroses and celandines, which are by Frances Wilmot)

 
 
 
 
 

 

Dog violet (Viola riviniana)

 

 

Common frog (Rana temporaria)

Comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album)

 

 

Primrose (Primula vulgaris)

 

 

 

Lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria)

 

Acknowledgement: my thanks are due to Frances Wilmot, Karen Lewis-Bell and Rosemary Guiot for providing the words on which my blog has been based.

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