Cotswold Life


Sum­mer’s drowsy de­scent into au­tumn is un­der­way with a feast of glo­ri­ous sights to en­joy, says Sue Bradley, who heads to the For­est of Dean to dis­cover some of its won­ders

- Animals · Zoology · Ecology · Wildlife · Biology · Gloucestershire · Chepstow · United Kingdom · Tidenham · Coleford · Woodland

With the Wye on its western bound­ary and the Sev­ern to the east, the coun­try­side around Ti­den­ham is rich in river­side wildlife, while wood­lands are home to a range of crea­tures.

The thing that re­ally sets it apart, how­ever, is the an­cient heather-rich heath­land and acid grass­land found on the na­ture re­serve known as Poor’s Al­lot­ment.

This in­creas­ingly rare type of open habi­tat is valu­able for ground-nest­ing birds, worms, in­sects and rep­tiles, with slow worms, adders, tree pip­its and wood­cocks among the species found there.

At the same time, Poor’s po­si­tion over­look­ing the River Sev­ern en­sures its pop­u­lar­ity with walk­ers, many of whom en­joy fol­low­ing its cir­cu­lar trail, while the dis­cov­ery of a soft drink bot­tle dat­ing back to Vic­to­rian times tes­ti­fies to its long use by pic­nick­ers.

Poor’s Al­lot­ment dates back to the 1800s, when land was set aside for rough graz­ing and mak­ing win­ter for­age at the time when many of fields in the area were be­ing en­closed to cre­ate larger ar­eas for farm­ing. The con­tin­u­ous pres­ence of live­stock over the past 200 years has en­sured the sur­vival of the heath­land’s open habi­tat, with rare breed cat­tle and ponies con­tin­u­ing the tra­di­tion to­day.

The im­por­tance of Poor’s Al­lot­ment is recog­nised through its sta­tus as a Spe­cial Site of Sci­en­tific In­ter­est and since 2015 both it and The Park, a for­mer conifer plan­ta­tion un­der­go­ing heath­land restora­tion, have been man­aged by Glouces­ter­shire Wildlife Trust.

Work is cur­rently un­der­way to con­trol

Glow-worm lar­vae prey on small snails and are ac­tive be­tween April and Oc­to­ber. Over time they grow into wing­less bee­tles that get their name from the way fe­males use their light-gen­er­at­ing (bi­o­lu­mi­nes­cent) bod­ies to at­tract mates at night.

bracken and in­va­sive saplings to en­cour­age pop­u­la­tions of night­jars and in­crease pop­u­la­tions of adders, the im­por­tance of which is shown by the carved wooden pedes­trian gate lead­ing onto Poor’s.

As well as cre­at­ing the ideal con­di­tions for heather to flour­ish, this ac­tiv­ity has led to greater num­bers of spring flow­ers.

“Man­ag­ing open habi­tats is chal­leng­ing due to the rapid way in which other species ‘suc­ceed’ – with big changes oc­cur­ring if we do noth­ing,” ex­plains Re­serves Man­ager West Kevin Caster, who looks af­ter the en­tire 30 hectare Park and Poor’s site ly­ing ei­ther side of the Chep­stow to Cole­ford spine road.

“Many trees have grown across Poor’s al­lot­ment, ini­ti­at­ing an en­tire area of sec­ondary wood where a ‘bea­con’ once car­ried sig­nals across the Sev­ern. Lo­cal peo­ple re­call the site be­ing much more open. Our aim is to re­duce in­va­sive trees such as sil­ver birch and re­tain more valu­able and less in­va­sive oaks, crab ap­ple and rowans. Over at The Park we’re work­ing to re­store heath­land to build on the over­all size of the habi­tat that’s avail­able.

“Our work is es­pe­cially im­por­tant for adders, a species that is very much on the brink: adder sur­vival in Glouces­ter­shire re­lies on sites like this.”

Most peo­ple know the adder is the UK’S only venomous snake, but few get to see them up close.

That’s be­cause th­ese in­creas­ingly rare rep­tiles are no­to­ri­ously shy and quickly re­treat if they sense hu­mans are nearby.

Wood­land glades and heath­lands are prime places to spot this dis­tinc­tive snake, which are most of­ten seen bask­ing in the sun­shine.

Gen­er­ally they’re around 80cm long and rea­son­ably stocky, with dis­tinc­tive dark zig-zag pat­terns along their backs and red eyes. Males tend to be more sil­very-grey in colour, while fe­males are lighter, or red­dish-brown. There’s also a black form.

Adders hi­ber­nate be­tween Oc­to­ber and March, emerg­ing dur­ing the first warm days of spring. They eat lizards, small mam­mals and ground-nest­ing birds, us­ing their venom to im­mo­bilise their prey.

Mat­ing takes place in spring, with males per­form­ing a ‘dance’ to fend off com­pe­ti­tion. Fe­males hold their eggs in­side their bod­ies un­til they hatch.

Adder bites are un­com­mon and their venom is gen­er­ally not a threat to hu­mans, nev­er­the­less, wounds can be painful and cause in­flam­ma­tion that can be dan­ger­ous to peo­ple who are young, old or ill. Med­i­cal at­ten­tion is rec­om­mended to any­body bit­ten by an adder. Dog own­ers are en­cour­aged to keep their pets on leads within known adder sites.

 ??  ?? Ex­moor ponies in the For­est of Dean
Ex­moor ponies in the For­est of Dean
 ??  ?? Glow worm
Glow worm
 ??  ?? Buff-tailed bum­ble bee on scor­pi­onweed
Buff-tailed bum­ble bee on scor­pi­onweed
 ??  ?? Poor’s Al­lot­ment
Poor’s Al­lot­ment
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Wood­cock
 ??  ?? Poor’s Al­lot­ment
Poor’s Al­lot­ment

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