An in-depth look at the trees on the Skyline

Rob Stephens, Ranger Rob Stephens Ranger
Winter trees on Bath Skyline

The Bath Skyline sits on limestone, and the pH neutral calcareous soils that have developed on the underlying rocks encourage particular species of plants.

Herb-rich wildflower grasslands are home to plants that thrive in the calcareous soil conditions. Unless the grasslands are managed with carefully planned grazing and cutting regimes they soon become encroached upon by scrub, which in turn gives way to woodland. The trees which first arrive on unmanaged land are the ‘pioneer’ species, the beginnings of woodland, and the tree species we find are influenced by the soil type.

On limestone we find ash, hazel, hawthorn, blackthorn, yew, cherry, elder, holly, spindle and field maple dominating young pioneer wooded areas, with sycamore present where this is locally abundant.

In the older woods, oak – both pedunculate and sessile, lime, hornbeam, wayfaring tree, wych elm and beech, copper beech, are to be found as well as horse chestnut and sycamore and the pioneer trees associated with limestone woodland.

The Skyline around Rainbow Wood is home to many mature beech trees, very likely planted, with some still showing their origins as avenue trees on Ralph Allen’s eighteenth century deer park estate. These trees are often very large, and beautiful with their clean silvery bark.

Bushey Norwood is a place to enjoy mature oak, field maple and ash trees, their appearance being of park-like trees scattered about the pasture. The trees were probably originally woodland trees, indicated by their shape and the name Bushey Norwood.

Bathwick Wood has an intriguing mix of mature statuesque beeches, possibly planted, with self-seeded ash and sycamore woods tumbling around the ancient quarry cliffs. Find some recently created glades where a variety of ferns and woodland flowers thrive on the wet soil and springs that exist on Claverton Downs’ slopes.