What to look for in winter
Winter at Hudswell Wood is a time of shadows and silhouettes. Situated on a north-facing slope the woodland rarely sees direct winter sunshine. Pockets of frost often persist behind Round Howe and trees at the top of the woodland are silhouetted against the cold winter sky. The noise of the River Swale echoes through the leafless trees and fills the woodland.
There’s no denying it, winter can be cold and damp at Hudswell Woods, and you often need wellies to get around. But if you make the effort to visit there’s always plenty of nature to enjoy. Flocks of small birds move through the woodlands searching for food, the “weep, weep” call of the nuthatch reminds us that spring is not far away. Roe deer are often visible browsing in the daytime, the white flash of their tail giving away their location. On the grassland you may enjoy a splash of winter sunshine sparkling on the frost etched gorse. And, whatever the temperature, dippers are often busy on the river, swimming and submerging for food before returning to a favourite rock.
As winter takes hold, and food sources dwindle, wildlife becomes more interested in food and less interested in hiding from people. Animals such as roe deer, fox, stoat, rabbit and many woodland and garden birds become a lot easier to see. There is less vegetation and their efforts are focused on feeding and finding food. Birds such as this redwing visit the UK to eat our wild berry crop.
Old leaves, grasses and dead stems of perennial plants are often beautifully etched in frost. It’s worth looking closely as these temporary works of art are often overlooked. Look for frost pockets and areas that are in shadow all day for the best ones.
Tracks in the snow
We don’t always get a good cover of snow but when we do the tracks left by birds and animals show just how busy the woodland is when we are not around. Have you tried following a line of tracks or identifying which animal or bird left their footprints?
Hudswell Woods supports a good number of yew and holly trees. The abundance of these evergreen trees in deciduous woodland becomes very apparent once the surrounding trees have dropped their leaves. It is easy to see in the depths of winter how these enduring trees of green have been attributed with religious significance.
For much of the year the River Swale resembles the colour of black tea. But in the winter, when days of frost lock up water on the moors and prevent the erosion of peat, the water in the Swale becomes crystal clear. From the footbridge it is often possible to clearly see the riverbed.
Scarlet elf cup
In the woods scarlet elf cup fungi are often visible in late January, they are very distinctive and often found in large numbers on dead wood. Their bright colour is very welcome in the dark cold days of winter.