Wildflowers bloom in welcoming woodland

A hare in Finemere Wood
A hare in Finemere Wood

FINEMERE and Whitecross Green Woods, two nature reserves renowned for their spring wildflowers, birds and summer butterflies, are both set to open to the public today.

During the winter the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust, in partnership with the Forestry Commission, has cleared several acres of conifers from these two woods on the Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire borders, in order to help restore the sites back to native broadleaf woodland.

Mark Vallance, head of reserves in Buckinghamshire, supervised the work.

He said: “These two reserves are very special because they’re ancient woodlands which were part of Bernwood Forest. They’re abundant with flowers and butterflies, and popular with walkers and wildlife watchers.

“About 40 years ago more than half of Whitecross Green Wood and a good part of Finemere were cleared to make way for conifers, which were planted as a crop.”

The woodland is now opening up with new areas for young oak, birch, willow and ash trees to grow stronger.

The cleared areas can look very stark at first, but more primroses and bluebells are flowering this spring because of the increased amount of sunlight. Shrubby trees like hawthorn, blackthorn and hazel will create a dense understorey, which is so important for invertebrates and birds. Both nature reserves were closed during the winter while work was carried out by contractors and enthusiastic volunteers in regular parties.

More than 2,200 tonnes of conifer were removed, most of it sold to sawmills for chipboard manufacture, fuel and other uses.

“Branches or brash wood were either left on the ground or burnt where possible. We have also left some piles as habitat for beetles and other insects, birds and small mammals.”

Finemere Wood has the thrilling atmosphere of a very old, wild place. This month and in May it will be carpeted in bluebells and many other wildflowers.

In summer the woodland rides are filled with butterflies such as the silver-washed fritillary, purple emperor and white admiral. Finemere Wood is north of the Edgcott to Quainton road, north-west of Aylesbury.

Details on the reserves pages at www.bbowt.org.uk

The Wildlife Trust has been gradually thinning out conifers in Whitecross Green Wood for several years, removing one in six trees on average to create open grassy rides favoured by hares in the spring and filled with wildflowers in the summer.

Whitecross Green Wood is on the Boarstall to Murcott road south of Bicester.