ANCIENT WOODLANDS IN FURZEFIELD COPSE
Ancient woodland and small areas of secondary woodland support their own communities. Furzefield Copse (accessed along a public footpath) is ancient woodland dating back hundreds of years and which has developed a very wide range of trees and woodland plants.
Footpath through Furzefield Copse
Yellow archangel in Furzefield Copse
Bluebells in Furzefield Copse
Herb Paris in Furzefield Copse
Furzefield is Ancient Woodland and which habitat type had an introduction in Wild Isles. English ancient woodlands are thought (on map evidence) to date from at least pre-1600 and have had plenty of time to develop a specialist flora suited to regular harvesting by cutting back of the trees and shrubs (coppicing) providing light in the spring and early summer allowing many plants to flower. That the Copse is ancient is confirmed by the flora which contains many plants (ancient woodland vascular plants) that only occur as a community in ancient woodlands.
The hand drawn 2” Ordnance Survey map of 1808 clearly shows the woodland much as now (Figure 3). The mid 19C Tithe Award Maps name the woodland as Holmwood Copse (holm perhaps from abundant holly) but by 1891 we see modern name of Furzefield Copse. Furze could refer to gorse which still occurs in the wood, or to gorse in adjacent fields which appear at that time appear to be in rough pasture with scattered trees and scrub, but which rough pasture appears to have gone 10 years later. The historic name Holmwood still exists in the nearby Holmwood Cottage.
In 1891 the woodland appears to be shown with deciduous trees and coppice symbols suggesting coppice with standards management where scattered trees were allowed to grow on for timber and small trees and shrubs were cut back to the base leaving a ‘stool’ from which new shoots would spring to be harvested for small wood used in hurdle making, fencing, and thatching materials.
Mary and I have recorded at least 59 trees, shrubs, and herbs in the woodland, many of which can still be seen alongside the footpath. Ash, field maple, cherry, holly, and hazel are typical ancient woodland trees and shrubs along with at least twenty-five flowering plants strongly indicative of ancient woodland including bluebell, yellow archangel, early purple orchid, town hall clock, Solomon’s seal, toothwort, sanicle, woodruff, wood anemone, wood spurge, herb Paris, wood sorrel, ramsons, primrose, pignut, and several others. A pretty good list for such a small woodland.
Unfortunately, the woodland has been seriously affected by ash die-back disease and much of the woodland has recently been felled and replanted with native trees and shrubs. Given time, the flora should return as the soils recover from the compaction caused by trafficking from heavy tree felling machinery and recover their structure and condition.
Fig. 3 Furzefield Copse in 1808
Note: Some of these photographs were taken a while back and prior to recent replanting