Wild Month

Seven es­sen­tial wildlife events to en­joy this month, com­piled by Ben Hoare.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Contents -

Seven species to look for in Novem­ber

1 | AT­LANTIC OAK­WOODS Wild wood

A tree is the “grand­est, and most beau­ti­ful of all the pro­duc­tions of this Earth”, wrote the artist Wil­liam Gilpin in 1791. Pub­lished dur­ing the Ro­man­tic era, his in­flu­en­tial book

Re­marks on For­est Scenery pro­moted the idea of woods as pic­turesque places that stir the soul. That is cer­tainly true of Wist­man’s Wood, on Dart­moor in De­von, which is of­ten de­scribed as ‘mag­i­cal’ or ‘fairy­tale’. In one of his col­umns for BBC Wildlife

Mag­a­zine, na­ture writer Richard Mabey called it a “goblin” wood and quoted nov­el­ist John Fowles: “It is the si­lence, the wait­ing­ness of the place, that is so haunt­ing.”

The wiz­ened, stunted oaks of Wist­man’s Wood are con­torted into strange shapes by a com­bi­na­tion of ex­po­sure to pre­vail­ing winds and poor soil. They look es­pe­cially dra­matic when leaf­less af­ter au­tumn gales. Sim­i­lar woods can be found cling­ing to damp hill­sides in other parts of south-west Eng­land, such as Ex­moor and the Quan­tock Hills, and in the far west of Wales and Scot­land. Ecol­o­gists re­fer to them as At­lantic oak­woods, or – more po­et­i­cally – ‘Celtic rain­for­est’. They are na­tion­ally im­por­tant for lichens and three groups of an­cient, flow­er­less plants: mosses, ferns and liv­er­worts. Wist­man’s Wood alone sup­ports around 120 species of lichen.

GET IN­VOLVED

Help record an­cient trees at: an­cient-tree-hunt.org.uk Na­tional Tree Week is 24 Novem­ber– 2 De­cem­ber: treecoun­cil.org.uk

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