Native woodland and wildflower meadow
This part of the garden was opened in autumn 2008 thanks to a grant from 'The Banks Group'. A woodland trail was created as well as access to a 2ha wildflower meadow.
Native Trees and WoodlandThe deciduous woodland vegetation is divided into distinct layers. Below the over-arching tree canopy there is a layer of smaller, shade-adapted trees and shrubs, while below these lies a ground layer of woodland herbs, ferns, mosses and fungi. A wide variety of wildlife, including insects, mammals and birds thrives in this sheltered habitat. Mosses continue to grow during the leafless winter months and the finest display of wild flowers like bluebell is in spring, before bud burst in the tree canopy plunges the woodland floor into deep summer shade.
Dead wood is an important wildlife resource in woodlands, playing host to fungi, wood-boring beetles and birds like the great spotted woodpecker. Unsafe branches are removed, but then left to decay amongst the leaf litter, where they continue to enrich the woodland’s wildlife for many years. Occasionally a tree may be felled by a storm and shafts of sunlight will reach the forest floor through the gap in the leaf canopy, allowing the next generation of saplings to grow towards their place in the sun. This is part of the natural cycle of regeneration in old woodlands. This woodland consists mainly of Oak and Beech trees with a small number of other species such as Rowan, Birch and Sycamore.
Wildflower meadowOld meadows are man-made but the are one of the most diverse wild flower habitats, hosting scores of plant species which in turn act as food plants for butterflies, moths and many less familiar insects. Traditional methods of managing meadows, combining mowing to remove hay and then grazing in autumn, maintains a relatively low level of soil fertility that prevents grasses becoming too aggressive and allows many flowering plant species to coexist, creating the traditional flowery meadow. To conserve our meadow we graze it with rare breed sheep; Manx Loghtan and Hebridean, from October to the middle of March. The Manx Loghtan is an ancient breed and is believed to have been native to the Isle of Mann for over 1000 years. These primitive sheep are ideal for conservation grazing, being able to survive harsh conditions and be more resistant to disease and problems that more modern day sheep tend to be more susceptible. A complex web of species relationships exists with a meadow. For example, yellow flowered hay rattle, highly attractive to bumblebees, is a partial parasite on the grasses, draining energy from its host and preventing the grasses from dominating the vegetation. Meadow brown butterflies lay their eggs on grass species, small copper butterfly caterpillars feed on sorrel and the chimney sweep moth breeds on pignut. Birds of prey, such as kestrels, can easily spot and hunt their prey.