Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Woodland treasure that’s well worth a visit whatever the weather

Woodland treasure that’s well worth a visit whatever the weather

STARING out of a window the other morning, I wondered whether the rain would ever stop as I wanted to get out and explore.

Luckly, it did and then the sun came out so me and my pal Dave Kenny headed towards Lambridge Wood, a Site of Special Scientific Interest which lies just a mile-and-a-half north-west of Henley.

I’d scurried through here in a hurry before on my way to Henley via Badgemore Park Golf Club but, recognising its beauty, I promised to make a proper visit as I sensed something special here.

We parked by a lane just short of a fork in the road at the western end near Bix and entered the wood to our right.

Immediately we found ourselves in classic Chiltern beech woodland with its characteristic understory of holly. A chaffinch took flight and a green woodpecker yaffled but that was it birdwise.

There was a bumper harvest of beech mast on the ground and I would expect to see large flocks of winter-visiting brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) — a distinctive little finch — over the next few months as they are partial to these little nuts.

What makes this woodland special is that the trees are not even-aged and unevenly spaced. They grow in all stages of life from the tall and old to the young that will in due course replace them.

There are occasional stands of wild cherry, with some individual specimens almost 80ft tall, as well as some ash, oak and a smattering of hazel, silver birch, hawthorn and yew.

The woodland is very open and there is no sign of management. We noted that there was no evidence of damage by deer and, quite wonderfully, no discarded litter. That’s a first!

All along this trail and to our right the path hogs an ancient boundary that once ended somewhere in what is now Henley town.

Various surviving portions extend to the west from here all the way through Highmoor and Nuffield, where it is known as Grims Ditch and forms part of the Ridgeway, and ending at Mongewell. I can only surmise that it was constructed in the late Iron Age.

As we progress, it warmed up considerably and the scent of fungi filled the air. Just before taking a second path to the left, we encountered a patch of the poisonous magpie fungus (Coprinopsis picacea) and some slimy porcelain fungus (Oudemansiella mucida) growing on a fallen, rotten beech branch.

The new path took us down into a damper part of this large woodland towards Lambridge Farm. This right of way seemed little used and had a different character altogether.

Plenty of smallish wych elms were present with some larch and a host of male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas) below. There were some juicy raspberries, too, but not so many after our passing.

The path rose again to the left and from the top was a fine view towards Stonor from the woodland edge. From here the track took us back to our starting point. We spotted a lone rowan tree here but otherwise we had re-entered the beech wood.

This lovely woodland is easily accessed on foot from Henley town centre. From the top of West Street turn right into Hop Gardens and at the end turn left into Crisp Road, take a footpath on the left into Lambridge Lane, head on and you will see the wood in the distance at the end of the right of way that traverses the golf club.

Woods like this are a treasure and are worth a visit whatever the season or the weather. I can’t wait to return.

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