Winter happenings... / by Jonathan Thomson

In his legendary book, Trees and Woodland in the British Landscape, Oliver Rackham writes about the importance of dead and rotting standing wood, in the UK landscape. This specific habitat provides territory for a range of invertebrates & fungus, many only found in decaying standing timber. Birds like woodpeckers and tree creepers take advantage of this habitat, for food and nesting. This habitat is far less prevalent now - many woodlands are overly cleared of diseased & dying trees and our Health and Safety culture designates these trees as dangerous. (At time of writing this blog, Surrey Wildlife Trust is felling 100’s of Ash trees, which may or may not have dieback, in the name of Health and Safety. And the timber is being sold for bio-electricity generation - SHAMEFUL on every level! Dan Harvey and Heather Ackroyd are fighting to halt this crime against nature).

The great Ted Green (who grew up with the ancient Oaks of Windsor Great Park, knows everything there is to know about ancient trees and woodland, and set up the Ancient Tree Forum) developed a simple innovation to help redress the loss of this valuable habitat - strap boughs to trunks and leave them to decay and rot.

Each winter at UWNR I thin the main woodland of some trees, to enable species like light hungry oak to thrive. The timber which is produced is used as fuel and is stacked on the ground in piles to rot - providing habitat for fungus, invertebrates and amphibians. This year, these methods have been complimented by creating multiple dead standing trees - slow decomposition will draw in yet more species to UWNR.

Thanks to Jamie and Jack for their help with this….


I stayed over-night at UWNR last week, to maximise the length of my tree thinning day, and on Thursday morning, in the pre-dawn dark gloom, I observed this from the barn. I took this shot through the window, in near darkness, so the quality is poor. Heartening that there are two Barn Owls - so far so good this winter, for these precious birds.