Image Credits: Woodland Walk by Zsuzsanna Bird
Lower Woods (SSSI) - Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust
One of England’s largest ancient oak-ash woodlands on heavy clay soils, Lower Woods is a site of great biological diversity. Its significant habitats including species-rich grasslands, the picturesque Little Avon River and damp meadows contains over 71 ancient woodland plant species – the highest number recorded in the South-west.
Each season here is blessed with amazing sights and sounds. Visit in spring to see violet, primrose and wood anemone carpet the woodland floor. Emerging into summer, the mysterious adder’s tongue fern appears under a display of silver-washed fritillary and white admiral butterfly wings.
Cabilla and Redrice Woods - Cornwall Wildlife Trust
One of the largest and finest ancient woodlands in Cornwall, Cabilla and Redrice Woods boosts an extensive area of mixed woodland, river and wetland belts. Some parts of the woodland remain unchanged for over 400 years, while archaeological relics add interest to the beautiful environment. In spring, delight in the bright colour and smells of bluebells, ransoms and wood anemones in full blossom. Come autumn, marvel at the reserve’s fungus bonanza. Adding a further sensory delight is the woodland’s birds including the treecreeper, woodpecker, pied flycatcher and nuthatch.
Dunsford - Devon Wildlife Trust
Dunsford’s wildlife and scenery are so rich and varied that you will want to visit many times and in every season. Grey wagtails and dippers can be spotted from the bank of the River Teign where salmon and trout attract kingfishers and otters. In March, the woods and glades host one of the finest displays of wild daffodils in southern England, followed by bluebells and wood anemones in May. In early summer a steep climb up the valley side can be rewarded by glimpses of pied flycatchers using the nest boxes and rare fritillary butterflies feeding on violets amongst the bracken.
Roydon Woods - Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust
Located in the New Forest Special Area of Conservation and a Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI), the wood’s combination of habitats and associated plant communities gives rise to a rich diversity of plant and animal species. Glow worms, swatches of bluebells, butterflies and dragonflies, alongside deer tracks and a brilliant display of over 900 species of fungi can be admired here. If you are lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the wood’s elusive mammal species including stoats, weasels, badgers and bank voles.
Bowdown Woods - Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust
Overlooking the Kennet Valley, Bowdown Woods is Berkshire’s biggest woodland reserve - and its sheer variety of wildlife throughout the year makes it a visit that’s hard to beat. Containing mysterious hidden valleys, sunny glades and patches of heathland, the woodland is always alive with birdsong. In summer over 30 butterfly species can be seen among the glades, and at dusk pipistrelle and brown long-eared bats swoop through the woodland. Also look out for the giant hunting dragonflies – four-inch long ‘hawkers’ that are on the lookout for insects along the woodland edge. Make a note to return in autumn for the incredible fungi.
Gamlingay Wood SSSI - The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire
Over a thousand year old woodland, the character and diversity of wonderful wildlife at Gamlingay is like no other. Soak up the rich perfume and icy hue of bluebells in spring to the russets and umbers of autumn leaves and the various shapes and sizes of fungi and toadstools. A stroll in summer along the flowered paths will cast up clouds of butterflies. Bats hawk and hunt in the wood at dusk taking advantage of the wood’s great abundance of moths.
Old Park Wood (Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust)
Possibly the most varied piece of woodland in Middlesex, this ancient woodland teems with wildlife and fantastic spring wildflower displays. Rich in invertebrates and birds, the woods are regularly visited by all three British species of woodpecker. Bluebells, yellow archangel, lesser celandine and the uncommon coralroot bittercress sweep the woodland with a carpet of bold yellows and purples.
Duke’s Wood - Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust
A hidden gem in Nottinghamshire, Duke’s Wood’s mixture of wildlife and historic value make the wood a very unique place to visit. This 18-arce (8ha) mixed deciduous woodland was the site of the UK’s first major onshore oil field. Leaving hints of its past behind, its famous ‘nodding donkeys’ are encased by a magnificent display of wood anemone and cowslip. Duke’s wood is all about its tadpoles, which, if you visit early summer have transformed into baby frogs exploring the woodland ponds. Bring your wellies in winter to enjoy the swampy, marshy feeling of the reserve. Children also love the newly built ‘bower’ den, allowing young minds to encounter what it would be like to live among nature.
Sydenham Hill Wood - London Wildlife Trust
One of the last remaining parts of the Great North Wood, Sydenham Hill Wood is a unique mixture of ancient woodland, Victorian garden plants and recent woodland. In summer, the Wood is surprisingly full of insects and is a hotspot for the impressive stag beetle – one the UK’s largest beetles. Escaping the effects of trampling seen in many urban woodlands, flowering plants including wild garlic, early dog violet and wood anemone flourish abundantly in spring.
Thorswood - Staffordshire Wildlife Trust
Whether you’re interested in wildflowers or landscape history, looking for a picnic spot, or just want to enjoy a quiet walk, then Thorswood is the ideal place to visit. Here you will find acres of rare plants including the delicate mountain pansy and peculiar moonwort, flower-rich meadows, heathland and spectacular landscapes. Hares are frequently seen around the reserve alongside Iron Age barrows which provide hints of historic mining activity.
Mere Sands Wood - The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester & north Merseyside
A wildlife-rich haven in the heart of agricultural west Lancashire. Composed of mature broadleaved and conifer woodland lakes, reedbed, wet meadows and heaths, Mere Sands Wood is nationally important for wintering water birds and dragonflies as well as its geology. Viewable from accessible hides, platforms and paths watch grebes raising their young in reedbeds and enjoy the sites of the largest breeding population of dragonflies in the Northwest. Autumn visitors include the snipe and greenshank.
Croes Robert Wood SSSI - Gwent Wildlife Trust
This ancient semi-natural woodland is an outstanding example of sustainable conservation in action. Managed through coppicing and traditional charcoal production, the reserve provides habitat for one of Britain’s most threatened species of mammal – the dormouse. The site contains many small streams and wet flushes, creating ideal conditions for golden-saxifrage and ferns, along with the associated insects of mossy trickles. Look out for the rare herb Paris, which is known as the ‘herb of equality’ due to its parts being considered equal and harmonious. The herb flowers from June onwards.
Gight Wood - Scottish Wildlife Trust
Situated on the banks of the River Ythan, Gight wood is one of the last remnants of ancient woodland in Aberdeenshire. Containing a rope bridge across the river Ythan for red squirrels, the reserve is a particularly great for spotting and photographing the native species. Many roe deer also live in the wood, alongside foxes, badger and hare. Rarer species include otters and herons.
More information on Gight Wood
Glenarm - Ulster Wildlife Trust
Flanking the winding Glenarm River, this beautiful nature reserve incorporates one of the largest areas of semi-natural woodland in County Antrim which is home to an array of wildflowers and fungi. During the spring and summer, the woods are alive with alive with birds such as bullfinch, long-tailed tit, sparrowhawk, jay and treecreeper. On the river, look out for dippers and grey wagtails, and up in trees is an abundant and healthy population of red squirrels. Please note, this reserve is only open to members of Ulster Wildlife; however, if an event is being held at these sites, non-members can attend for a small charge.
More information on Glenarm
Coed Dyrysiog - Brecknock Wildlife Trust
An ancient woodland nestling in the Nant Bran Valley. The reserve’s majestic oak trees and winding Nant Bran River makes Coed Dyrysiog a peaceful place to leisurely enjoy a woodland walk. In the early spring the woodland floor is speckled white with the flowers of wood sorrel and wood anemone and the occasional spike of early purple orchids. Daubentons and noctule bats can also be spotted roosting in the cavities of old trees. Look out for the delicate moschatel, also known as ‘town hall clock’ due to its flowers being arranged like the four faces of a clock tower.