Bradfield Woods National Nature Reserve is one of the UK's best woodland wildlife
This ancient working wood dates back to 1252 when it supplied firewood
and wood products for local people nearby.
Photo - Alan Beales|
Bradfield is the archetypal English lowland
woodland, and is probably the best example in Britain of a traditionally managed
Bradfield Woods is made up of Felsham Hall Wood and what remains
of Monk's Park Wood.
Over 130 acres of the latter were lost to agriculture
in the 1970s. It was this destruction that led to campaign by local people resulting
in the wood being purchased and set up as a nature reserve.
Today the woodland
is a profusion of colour and sound as a result of its sensitive conservation.
woods like Bradfield are famous for their fabulous flora.
Today the wood
is managed in the same way as in medieval times when the monks of Bury St Edmunds
Abbey were its first custodians.
Material from the woods still goes to be
used as thatching, firewood, tool handles and rustic poles.
cutting trees to ground level every 10-20 years. A different part of the woods
is coppiced every year according to a long term management plan.
or 'stools' regenerate naturally, and the whole system of coppicing enhances the
life of the trees.
Some of the giant ash stools date back to the Middle
early morning visit to hear the dawn chorus is a symphony of sound with Warblers
and Nightingales competing to make the sweetest music.
The Nightingale is
declining in numbers, but this woodland is perfect for them because they can feed
on the forest floor and breed in the dense thickets which are typical of coppiced
woods like Bradfield.
The Nightingale is characterised by the exquisite
beauty and variety of its bird song, although when the bird gives birth to its
chicks, its exquisite voice is replaced by a raucous call.
is also home to a range of woodland birds and mammals including deer, the yellow
necked mouse, the enigmatic dormouse and badgers.
The deer population includes
Roe Deer and Red Deer as well as the tiny, dog-sized Muntjac Deer which can be
spotted regularly in the woods.
During the Summer there are breathtaking
clouds of butterflies in the more sheltered areas of the woods, with 24 different
types having been identified to date.
The best way to enjoy the woods is
to pick up a trail guide at the visitor centre on arrival, and a good time to
visit the reserve is between April and mid-July.
Bradfield boasts an impressive variety of plants, about 370
in total, as a result of its wide range of soil types.
One of its specialities
is the Oxlip, for many years thought to be a cross between a Primrose and Cowslip,
but now a species in its own right.
Another rare plant is Herb Paris or
Herb True Love Knot, which looks like a traditional love knot, hence its popular
Visitors can also see Bradfield's Early Purple Orchids and Wood Anemones,
and the best time to see these colourful wild flowers is April.
Photos courtesy of Alan Beales and Steve
Aylward of Suffolk Wildlife Trust.