Betty’s Wood

This blog has been very quiet over the past few weeks, but this is not because nothing has been going on.  Rather, it has been because lots has been going on behind the scenes that I haven’t been able to reveal – until now!

A few months ago, we idly mentioned to the farmer who owned the field next to our wood that if he ever thought of selling any land, we’d like to know.  We had an idle dream that we would like to link our wood with another small spinney of woodland on the far side of his field.  However we didn’t really think that dream would come true.

Until a few weeks ago!  Out of the blue we got a phone call from the farmer, asking if we would like to buy part of his field.  After picking ourselves up off the floor, and many meetings, phone calls and negotiations later, we have now finally signed a contract for the purchase of 9.3 acres of field.  This will allow us to link our wood with the little spinney, and create a large area of new woodland, ponds and wildflower meadows adjoining both our woods and the Coventry Canal.

Best of all, this will create a wildlife corridor, forming the last piece in a jigsaw.  Wildlife corridors are important because they allow wildlife to move from one piece of habitat to another:  isolated pieces of habitat are vulnerable to damage, as the wildlife has nowhere to go if they cease to exist.  Now the wildlife on the western bank of the Canal will have a long strip of woodland from Alvecote Wood through to Pooley Country Park, via an area in Higher Level Stewardship.  On the other bank of the Canal is Pooley Fields SSSI and Alvecote Pools SSSI, so the whole area is now a rich tapestry of habitats, to which we will be adding Betty’s Wood.

We have already started work on the site with the permission of the vendor, as there are some things you have to do in season.  After the wheat crop was harvested, we have been round and protected over 400 little oak seedlings growing naturally in the field margin.  The central area has been cultivated and seeded with grass and wildflower mix.  This will form the basis of our wildflower meadows as well as a base into which we plan to plant 3500 trees.

The trees will be planted in several different compartments:  adjacent to the wood, we are allowing as much natural regeneration as possible, aided by direct seeding, and also the growing of some acorns under cover.  We will also clone some local willow.  At the lower end of the field, the ground is very damp, and we will be planting wet woodland:  alder, hazel, willow.  We will also create seasonal and permanent ponds.  Higher up, where the ground is dry, we will be planting mixed broadleaved native woodlands, particularly oak, ash, willow, hazel, rowan, wild cherry.  Scattered among this will be areas left to develop as meadow.

Finally, we will put in a hedge that will connect our wood with the spinney and hedgerow beyond, and form an immediate and important wildlife connection between the two sites.

The whole thing has been so exciting, so scary, and so radical.  It is wonderful to think that we will have the opportunity to change the landscape for the better, making a wonderful set of new habitats for wildlife, and creating a place of beauty.

Why Betty’s Wood?  Betty was my Mum.  She passed away in 2007 after a lifelong fight with multiple sclerosis.  She always loved the countryside, despite finding it progressively more difficult to visit the outdoors.  She was a lifelong supporter of the Woodland Trust.  I know she would have loved Alvecote Wood, and money from her estate is now being used to purchse this new piece of land.  Betty’s Wood will form a fitting and permanent memorial to her.  So here’s to Betty’s Wood!

And, of course, if anybody would like to help us plant a lot of trees…

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