For our Monday morning activity yesterday, I and other members of the Gaywood Valley Conservation Group enjoyed the autumnal delights of the ancient Reffley Wood. The sun showed itself intermittently, highlighting the yellows and oranges of the remaining leaves on the trees, as we crunched over the leafy carpet.
In the 130 acres, however, there is a range of habitats, and some areas were still well wet from recent heavy rain. Despite this, we noticed one pond was totally dry.
Last winter, I and fellow members of the Conservation Group, which had been formed earlier in the year with support from Norfolk Wildlife Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund, had been busy coppicing hazel and other small trees along one of the rides and we wanted to see how the coppiced shrubs were doing. Some of them were certainly regenerating well, showing green leaves. And I know, from visits made in the summer, that more wild flowers had bloomed in the area as a result.
As the sun slanted down the ride and the temperature rose from its chilly start, a lone dragonfly patrolled above our heads. Also, blue tits and a party of long tailed tits bounced and chattered their way through the bare branches of nearby trees. The “keeoor” call of the buzzard. which has become a regular sound encountered on a walk in the Woodland Trust owned Wood, punctuated our stroll and this morning we also saw the bird flying above the canopy. It seemed to rise gently in the air, probably making use of a thermal.
Thanks to the exceptionally mild weather so far during November, we discovered one primrose along the ride was sporting a flower bud. Similarly, some of the primroses in a bed in our garden had begun producing their soft yellow flowers over recent weeks, and also some violets in the same bed had bloomed out of season. Black bryony, complete with red berries, was spotted in another section of the Wood. And a buttercup was displaying its bright yellow petals.
The magnificently sculpted veteran oaks forming a boundary along the eastern side of the Wood never fail to stir my imagination. They are believed to be around 400 years old. Think how many feet have trodden the paths beneath the ascending branches and gnarled trunks of these grand old trees. They are, without doubt, a solid link with our past and, as such, should have preservation orders, surely?
Slightly further into the Wood, another elderly oak shows how tough and resilient they can be. It is still growing strongly today, despite baring the scar of an attempt to cut it down earlier in its life. Brilliant! Curiously, it has what looks like a heart shape on its sturdy trunk. There are also the remains of a hollow oak near the dried-up pond.
Also among the fauna, we watched two or three grey squirrels scampering athletically amongst their tree filled playground.
One or two examples of scarlet elfcup fungus were spotted by sharp-eyed members of the newly independent Group. Other fascinating fungi seen included a jelly type attached to a piece of wood, plus one that looked like a black stain on, or in, a piece of dead bracken.
We took a look at a large field alongside the Wood, where there are plans to build a substantial number of houses. I just hope any development won’t impinge too much on this glorious woodland; it’s been here for at least 400 years and should remain for many more. We need places like this – they provide essential things like oxygen, alleviating flooding, providing relaxation and exercise, and, of course, are invaluable for the creatures and plants that call them home. They are priceless.
While standing at the edge of the Wood, we had a minute’s silence at 11am to remember those killed in the atrocious terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday. The woodland is an ideal place for reflection.