Restoring Walk Wood

Andy Jesson, Head Gardener Andy Jesson Head Gardener

When preparing a new area for opening to the public there are a number of things we have to consider; among them accessibility, conservation and of course, health and safety. Over the last 15 years, we have been making the woodland 'wind firm', while investigating and recording all the historic and natural features and restoring paths and views.

Walk Wood consists of mixed coniferous and broadleaf species with forestry planting.  There are areas of hornbeam, and some additional interesting features such several majestic ancient yews as well as an unusual area with rhododendrons and bamboo.  It is thought that this section was planted by the early 20th century owner Arthur Soames.  Located close to the weir, the water and bamboo create sound, while the heavily-scented hybrid rhododendrons and the changing light levels as you emerge from the coniferous planting leads to an all-round sensory experience.

The key to restoring this woodland has been to interfere as little as possible.  That may sound strange, but it is important not to tip the delicate balance of nature, so we thin the trees carefully and encourage natural regeneration.  We have also used natural materials wherever possible, with recycled woodchip paths and dead hedges created from branches gathered from the woodland floor.

" it is important not to tip the delicate balance of nature"
- Andy Jesson

Fallen trees have been left with their root plates in situ.  It’s fascinating to get up close and look at the root network that you wouldn’t normally see, and by letting them rot naturally, it also encourages growth of all the flora and fauna that thrive on the decomposing wood.

The path network has been carefully planned to take in some of the best views and historic features, as well as allowing visitors to view the seasonal carpets of bluebells without trampling them.  In particularly boggy areas, we have built boardwalks to allow year-round access.

Some paths are located on historic routes and others more recent trackways, but we hope to restore more historic walks in the woods over the coming years as part of our 20-year woodland management plan.  We want to keep on developing, exploring and sharing these woods with our members and visitors for the long term.