Ramblings from Finemere Wood

Ramblings from Finemere Wood

Woodland scallop at Finemere Wood. Photo by Charlotte Karmali

It's time to create woodland scallops that will kickstart new growth, new habitats, and a greater abundance and medley of life.

November and the days are becoming colder and darker. The pull to stay tucked up indoors is becoming greater. The woodland workers, however, are still coming out in their numbers, spirited and sparky. They love the winter work of chopping down trees and shrubs, it is difficult for them to contain their excitement at times. 

Without management, Finemere Wood would become a dark and gloomy place. It would eventually become dominated by large, mature trees. There would be no variety in the size and structure of vegetation, resulting in less biodiversity. The back of the wood is left to its own devices, but the rest of the wood is actively managed to ensure a diverse range of habitats is available for all wild things.

Volunteers creating a woodland scallop

Volunteers creating a woodland scallop at Finemere Wood. Photo by Charlotte Karmali

Each year, three or four scallops are created along the rides. A ride is a linear track designed for access. Scallops are large lay-by shaped areas that are cut into the woodland edge, approximately 10 metres deep by 30 metres wide.

All vegetation within this area is cleared. This creates an undulating margin that maximises the woodland edge, providing a diverse range of habitats, hugely beneficial to wildlife.

Extra sunlight will flood down to the ground, providing warm, sheltered pockets and protection from the wind for many a species of invertebrate, and butterflies in particular. The scallops are left to regenerate over a number of years, and thus develops a patchwork of vegetation of varying maturity and size, a home for every creature.

Bluebells in woodland

Springtime bluebells at Finemere Wood. Photo by Tim Read

The volunteers work like machines. Trees and shrubs thud to the ground like dominos. Gleeful shouts of “timber!” surround me. To stop them I must confiscate their saws, or shout “cake!’.

The cut wood is piled around the edge of the scallop, forming a dead hedge. It provides a valuable habitat for fungi and a wide spectrum of invertebrates which break down the vegetation, returning the nutrients to the soil. Mosses and lichens will thrive, birds will find a rich source of food, and amphibians will hibernate here.

Another scallop done. The volunteers look on with satisfaction. It has been an exhilarating day, a tonic for the workers. But for nature it is a tonic too, this act of cutting will kickstart new growth, new habitats, and a greater abundance and medley of life.

For further information about volunteering opportunities at Finemere Wood and other reserves, at our visitor centres and more, please email volunteering@bbowt.org.uk.

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