Prestwood Nature The Local Environment Group for the Prestwood Area

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Angling Spring Wood

Angling Spring Wood is owned and managed by Chiltern District Council. Back in 2004 Prestwood Nature in collaboration with CDC and its forestry consultants drew up a management plan with an overall aim of protecting and increasing the biodiversity of these woodlands, while encouraging public access. PN volunteers have been working towards these goals over the past few years to good effect.

Many local people enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the woods  - they are favourites with walkers, dog walkers, children en route to school, cyclists and horse riders.

A stroll through the woods at any time of year is a restorative treat; a few hundred meters from the road the buzz of traffic is replaced by the tuneful burble of a black-cap or the startled ‘yaffle’ of a green woodpecker far up in the tree-tops, but not everyone is aware what a rich wildlife amenity these woods represent: the biological variety is impressive.

Observations on a Woodland Walk

Concern had been expressed by some people about the future management of Angling Spring Wood so, in August 2018, more than 30 people joined John Morris, director of the Chiltern Woodland Project, for a walk in Angling Spring Wood to learn about past management of the wood, its present state and prospects for the future.

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End of main ride near Great MissendenThe wood is home to some unusual species of insect, including uncommon hoverflies and beetles. As you might expect, there is an extraordinary array of fungi in the ancient woodland parts, some with evocative names such as Old Man of The Woods, Chicken of the Woods and Deathcap. Tony Marshall, founder of Prestwood Nature, leads fungal forays in the autumn – check the Prestwood Nature events pages for details.

Being rich in fungi, Angling Spring Wood is home to the pleasantly named ‘slender slug’, a nationally designated species of conservation concern. Unlike the reviled garden slug, this is a rather attractive specimen - golden yellow with violet horns! An indicator species of ancient woodland, it feeds on toadstools. So, as you gaze up at the light-diffusing canopy, also ponder the exotic hidden world beneath your feet!

And some encouraging news regarding butterflies! For the first time, the rare silver-washed fritillary and white-letter hairstreak butterflies were recorded here in 2011. These were observed feeding on nectar plants near the gate at Martinsend Lane last summer, though their breeding area is probably along the main ride where their larval food plants (dog violet for SWF and elm for WLH) are more abundant.

Challenges to the woods

Old coppice stoolsGrey squirrel damage to trees is a conservation challenge in the woods. Many of the next generation of canopy trees, especially valuable young specimens of oak, beech and cherry, have been lost to ‘ring-barking’. Squirrels nibble the bark all the way round the tree, about 3 to 5 meters from the base, killing the tree from that point. Coppicing squirrel-damaged trees will provide cover for birds and insect habitat.

Another challenge comes from exotic garden species invading due to dumping of garden waste by local households. Garden waste also skews the nutritional make-up of the soil, to the detriment of fungi.

Holly is invading many local beech woods and Angling Spring Wood has its share too. Although a native species, holly’s tendency to form thickets changes the character of the woods, restricting light and suppressing the wild flowers of the woodland floor.

Prestwood Nature’s work in the woodsBluebells at Martinsend Lane

Prestwood Nature volunteers consult with Chiltern District Council on conservation activities in the wood. Because we do not own the woods ourselves, this is inevitably involves compromise.

Over the past four years Prestwood Nature volunteers have been removing scrubby holly in the area near the gate on Martinsend Lane. The good news is that our onslaught against the holly is already paying a floral dividend: in April 2011 the bluebells in this area were making a strong comeback.

We have also coppiced squirrel-damaged and poor specimen trees.Winter sunrise in Angling Spring Wood

Prestwood Nature volunteers removed rabbit-proof fencing from the 1970’s, opening up the wood for walkers.

None of these improvements could happen without the hard work of volunteers, so a hearty ‘thank you’ is due to all who have given their time to help out in the woods: the increases in biodiversity and improvements in the overall quality of the woodland environment show that our effort is paying off.

Further information:     Angling Spring Wood survey and management plan