Ladybower Wood nature reserve
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust works across six Living Landscapes with 46 nature reserves to ensure there
is wildlife and wild places for everyone. Reserve officer Sam Willis tells us about one of his favourite
places – Ladybower Wood Nature Reserve
Nestled on the slope between Ladybower Reservoir and Derwent Edge lies one of Derbyshire’s last remaining examples of semi-ancient upland woodlands. Only 16 hectares in size, it is easily accessed from the A57 to the side of Ladybower Inn by a well-trodden and cycled bridleway along its eastern boundary. Many visitors only see this short section of the reserve, but a concessionary path veers off to the left which leads on into the reserve. Following this path guides you to explore a mature heather, bilberry and bracken moorland on your right and then on into the woodland to your left.
The atmospheric woodland is characterised with old gnarled trees, many of which are covered in mosses and lichens, and is mainly made up of silver birch, rowan and sessile oaks.
Sessile means stalkless – referring to the acorns that ‘sit’ on the twigs rather than being attached by stalks, as on the English or pendunculate oaks of lowlands. The trees are a lifeline to many nesting birds. They provide shelter and vast amounts of food in the form of invertebrates – pied flycatchers, for example, will only breed in sessile woods. It’s well known that oak trees support a huge amount of wildlife with over 650 insects recorded along with 65 mosses and liverworts and 300 lichens (Milner 2011).
Autumn brings out the fruits of many fungi including the unusual but edible beef steak fungus. This is a bracket fungi that grows on both old living trees and on dead wood, reddish brown in colour and resembling a slab of raw meat, hence its name. Silver birches are one of our earliest native trees, being one of the first to colonise the UK after the last glacial period. More species of fungi are associated with the birches than any other tree, with many hidden under the soil enabling birches to thrive in poor ground conditions due to their symbiotic relationships. Several fruiting bodies appear above ground – look out for toadstools of birch, rosy and purple swamp brittlegills, brown birch bolete and the poisonous fly agaric. On the trees look for the birch polypore bracket fungi.
As the leaves change to the autumn show of colour, now is the perfect time to explore the hidden corners of this magical place.
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust runs regular volunteer reserve work parties to carry out essential habitat and general maintenance work – if you would like to get involved and volunteer with the Trust call 01773 881188 or visit their website www. derbyshirewildlifetrust.org.uk
Heather in flower at Ladybower Wood
Fly agaric fungi