A well managed woodland is vital for a good range of native plants and animals to flourish. The cost of this management combined with lack of demand for some types of wood such as hazel coppice has led to many woodlands becoming overgrown. This excludes light and then the insects and birds abandon it, leaving it devoid of life. This is particularly true in the south west corner of Surrey where the Springbok Estate is situated. Turning low grade timber and brash (the tops of the trees) into wood chip for sale in local biomass boilers helps to pay for this vital management which brings woodland back to life.
The Chiddingfold Forest, of which the woodland around Springbok is a part, is one of the most important areas for woodland butterflies in the South East of England. It is the only place in the South East where the rare Wood White butterfly can still be seen in May/June and again towards the end of July in some seasons in a second brood.
The woodlands adjoining the Springbok Estate, as well as some of the Springbok Estate woodlands, have been assessed by Butterfly Conservation, the main butterfly charity. Currently the Wood White can be found at Butterfly Conservation’s Oaken Wood reserve which is a couple of miles away as the crow flies but isn’t present in the woods around Springbok. The BC experts have confirmed that sympathetic woodland management should help to increase the habitat and boost the numbers of the Wood White in the local area. This involves clearing some areas of woodland to provide open, sunny east/west rides about 30 metres across and then keeping them on a relatively short rotation which is what these butterflies need to survive and thrive.
The most spectacular of our woodland butterflies, the Purple Emperor (below), also has a strong population in the woods in this corner of Surrey along with White Admirals, Silver Washed Fritillaries and Purple Hairstreaks. The management proposals will also seek to improve the habitat for these species as well.
As well as these butterflies other species which are present locally are nightingales which breed in the woodland in late spring and early summer and habitats are also being managed to attract this lovely and important species.
Bringing woodland back into management is expensive and the wood extracted is often of little commercial value. Creating a market for local wood chip to be burnt in the Springbok boilers is already helping private woodland owners in the immediate area to cover the costs of this important habitat improvement work. Work done to open up rides in private woodland neighbouring the Springbok Estate in early 2017 resulted in a huge and visible improvement in the wildlife population the very same summer. Grey wagtail and wren were seen for the first time in the centre of the wood. Then by early July, Silver Washed Fritillaries, Brimstone, Meadow Brown and Large White Butterflies were present in reasonable numbers where before only the Speckled Wood butterfly had been seen.
More information on some of these works can be found on the Blog on this website.