More on the importance of the Scrubbs Woodland on Crickley Hill
The location proposed for the green bridge in the statutory public consultation in October 2019 would have resulted in more than three acres of irreplaceable ancient woodland being clear felled for construction. We were not able to support this loss because of the lasting harm it would cause to the landscape and its wildlife. We’ve shared some information here about why the woodland is so important.
Crickley Hill’s woodland
The areas of woodland that would have been lost in construction form part of a wider area at Crickley Hill known as The Scrubbs and Crickley Wood. They are remnants of a much larger ancient woodland and are recorded on the Coberley Tithe Map of 1838. Located on thin, calcareous and undulating ground - steep in places - these woods are dominated by beech trees with a sparse understorey. Canopy gaps and edge habitats are rapidly colonised with ash and sycamore trees.
The Scrubbs and its habitats
The woodland habitat of The Scrubbs is of national conservation importance due to its longevity, the range of notable species that live there and its Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) notification. The long history of woodland cover on this land (as evidenced by veteran beech pollards) means that The Scrubbs has developed a rich and varied flora and fauna. The undisturbed soils - a key feature - are thought to contain species and natural ecological processes reflective of Britain’s original woodland cover.
The Scrubbs is Nationally Notable (indicating ecological scarcity) for two species groups, both associated with woodlands that have been stable for a long time - decay wood (saproxylic) invertebrates and fungi.
The woodland is of national importance for its saproxylic beetles and it’s the best example of an old growth beech site in the Cotswolds. Nationally Notable species are associated with beech, ash, hazel and whitebeam, highlighting the need for a structurally and species diverse woodland.
The fungal community is species-rich and is a further indication of long-term stability of the woodland. A remarkable 579 species have been recorded at Crickley Hill and the majority of these have been found in The Scrubbs, including the nationally endangered saproxylic Flea’s ear Chlorencoelia versiformis.
Veteran trees are Crickley Hill’s most significant feature. They support the saproxylic invertebrates and fungi and so they are critical to maintaining Crickley’s overall species diversity and woodland functionality. Every single veteran tree is irreplaceable because their loss cannot be mitigated by replacement planting.
Decay wood and younger trees
Decay wood and younger trees are also important features of the woodland at Crickley Hill and its ecosystem.
Decay wood in trees, regardless of age or species, has the potential to support saproxylic invertebrates and fungi of conservation importance (and flowering scrub and ground flora is important for saproxylic invertebrates during their adult life stage).
Mature and semi-mature trees will become future veterans and so a stock of mixed ages is essential for ecological continuity.
Maintaining each of these features is important for the survival of a healthy woodland.
There is more information on Highways England's A417 Missing Link web page.