5 great woods for a walk in Cambridgeshire, UK
There is some amazing woodland in Cambridgeshire, some ancient and some more recent. Here are 5 good ones for a short walk.
1. Hayley Wood
An ancient woodland with an active coppice cycle and a fantastic display of oxlips in the spring
This ancient woodland is a treasure trove of spring flowers and archaeological clues to times past. It is still managed in a traditional way to this day. As well as the usual flowers, such as bluebell, wood anemone and dog's mercury, Hayley Wood is host to hundreds of species of fungi and thousands of insects and birds.
As you walk up Hayley Lane to approach the wood, the hedge on your left is at least 800 years old and in the winter groans with berries that sustain fieldfares and redwings.
In the wood you will find a fence erected by the Wildlife Trust to protect most of the wood from the ravages of deer browsing. Although not in keeping with the landscape, it has reversed 20 years of decline in the oxlip population for which the wood is so famous.
2. Gamlingay Wood
This site has been woodland for at least a thousand years, and the character and diversity of wonderful wildlife here reflects it. No matter when you visit there are joys to discover from the rich perfume and icy hue of bluebells, to the russets and umbers of autumn leaves, hiding the varied colours of fungi. A stroll in summer along the flowered paths will cast up clouds of butterflies. As the dusk gathers bats hawk along rides taking advantage of the abundance of moths.
3. Waresley & Gransden Woods
Waresley and Gransden Woods are adjoining ancient oak-ash woods, home to many breeding birds. An abundance of wildflowers attracts many insects and over 500 species of moth and butterfly have been recorded here. There are many open grassy areas and in spring the ground is carpeted with bluebells, violets and oxlips.
4. Brampton Wood
Brampton Wood is the second largest ancient woodland in Cambridgeshire and is at least 900 years old. The first records date back to the Domesday Book. The trees are mostly oak, ash and field maple. The entire wood was once clear felled and has regenerated naturally. Some areas are now coppiced and provide a habitat for dormice. Plants to look out for include Primrose, Water Purslane, Wood Spurge, Common Spotted Orchid, and Devil's-bit Scabious. Wild pear is a native but uncommon species and the two trees in the wood may be the last surviving ones in Cambridgeshire.
5. Overhall Grove
Overhall Grove is the largest elm woodland in Cambridgeshire. The elms invaded after traditional management for woodland products declined in the early 1900s. They have been badly affected by Dutch elm disease, but many have regenerated from the base and the mixture of dead wood and new growth is excellent habitat for insects and birds. In spring, the wood is full of songbirds such as willow and garden warblers and song thrushes, and scattered in some areas are splendid rosettes of oxlip. The wood also contains several large oak trees which are over 250 years old. The remains of a medieval manor surrounded by a moat can still be seen in the northern end of the wood, which is now home to a family of badgers. Their digging has unearthed shards of pottery, which date the manor back to the 11th to 15th centuries.