Prestwood Nature The Local Environment Group for the Prestwood Area

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Angling Spring Woodland Walk - August 2018

The following is a brief account of Angling Spring Wood gained from the walk and from previous knowledge gained through working with Prestwood Nature, with comments on the present state of the woods and some of the issues affecting its future.

The large number of flints in the ground make much of the Chilterns unsuitable for farming, but still commercially useful as woodland. Beech was widely grown for use in the furniture industry, with local ‘bodgers’ managing the woodland and making chair legs on site. The bodgers would have naturally thinned the wood as part of this process. During the 1st and 2nd world wars the woodland is likely to have been over-exploited as all resources were badly needed. Up until the 1980’s good quality furniture manufacturers such as Ercol were still paying reasonable prices for beech timber, but prices have since dropped, management of woods has reduced, and the beech timber quality has reduced due to scarring, possibly from squirrel damage.

Angling Spring Wood is comparatively small at 16.4 hectares with several footpaths running through and a bridleway (for cyclists and horse riders) along part of the top edge. An unusual feature of the woods is the spring, incorporated in the name and located towards the bottom of the main east-west ride through the woods.

As well as beech, Angling Spring Wood has a wide variety of other trees and shrubs growing, including larch, ash, oak, wild cherry, elm, hornbeam and sycamore. Holly is another, though it spreads easily and Prestwood Nature volunteers have been keeping this in check over the years. The wood has various compartments that reflect differing past grant schemes available for planting and management over the years. These include broadleaves-with-larch, broadleaves-with-conifers and broadleaves-only areas.

Tree protection methods have varied over the years and have included rabbit-proof fencing (taken down by Prestwood Nature), plastic tree guards which can litter the woods, and metal spikes. The spikes are difficult to remove and are a potential hazard if a tree grows around one and is subsequently removed using power tools.

In 2003, Prestwood Nature became involved with Angling Spring Wood when major felling was about to take place. An area that had been full of bluebells was converted into a hard standing to facilitate the felling. After 15 years this area has improved greatly, with a wide variety of wild plants and flowers appearing at the expense of the bluebells. Buddleia now grows there and attracts butterflies, but is this non-native plant a friend or an invasive foe?

A couple of years ago butterfly scallops (areas cleared to provide habitat for butterflies) were created along the main ride to help increase the biodiversity in the area. Wider varieties of plants and ferns have appeared due to the semi-shade in these areas.

Through surveying by Tony Marshall, many species of plants and animals have been recorded in the woods including the rare Slender Slug and recently two rare species of bramble.  On the autumn fungus walks, numerous species have been identified and on one of these walks I had the pleasure of seeing the Giant Club, a UK rarity.

For the future, the overall aim must be to ensure a healthy woodland with a sustainable, naturally diverse ecosystem. Some of the future issues to be considered include Ash Dieback (a fungal infection) and the possible effects of climate change. People safety is another aspect that needs consideration: The wood is used and appreciated by many people, including dog walkers, horse riders, commuters between Prestwood and Great Missenden, and cyclists - the top bridle path is part of the National Cycle Network (Route 57).

Prestwood Nature is grateful to John for leading an enjoyable and informative walk.

Jenny Smith - September 2018

Photos: Keith Tyrrell (top and middle) & Vanessa Rickett