Grow a woodland and the wildlife will come

A harvest mouse nest

In 2014 we planted our first Northwood tree. 12,999 trees and 21 native species later we have a flourishing young woodland right in front of our eyes. Not only is the 20 hectares of establishing native woodland doing brilliantly, but so is the natural regeneration. Large areas of saplings have popped up all over Northwood thanks to the surrounding rich seed source.

Tree guards protect newly planted saplings at Northwood, Slindon
Newly planted trees protected from grazing with tree guards
Tree guards protect newly planted saplings at Northwood, Slindon

Many of these young trees are being protected by plastic tree tubes, others are safely tucked up in scrub where grazing animals can’t quite reach them. There’s also 45 hectares of wood pasture establishing in the heart of Northwood, where 60 wooden tree guards have already been constructed and installed within the open fields.  Each guard protects a single tree of species such as English oak, beech, field maple and whitebeam.  During the last couple of years these fields have also been converted to organic status, and there are now organic shorthorn cattle and llynn sheep happily grazing on site, gradually creating a rough grassland habitat for a wide variety of wildlife to thrive in.

A majestic purple emperor butterfly rests on a bramble leaf
A purple emperor butterfly rests on a bramble leaf
A majestic purple emperor butterfly rests on a bramble leaf

It’s incredible to see what’s been achieved in just five years - imagine what Northwood will look like after another five years?  The local wildlife certainly approves as it’s moving into Northwood at a pace.  Not only has the woodland started growing, with some trees reaching 10ft, but the birds, bees and butterflies are moving in. In 2019 we had our first record of a purple emperor butterfly, green hairstreak and even a chalkhill blue butterflies. 

Barn owl
A barn owl in flight
Barn owl

We have seen a change in both the numbers of birds visiting the area and also new species such as snipe. Visitors to Northwood have even seen barn owls quartering the fields on several occasions, a sight not seen before. Over 20 bee orchids appeared in the wood pasture fields in 2019, not seen in the fields for over 60 years. In the hot summers of 2018  and 2019, you couldn’t walk around Northwood in sandals without finding a grasshopper or two hopping between your toes. Having carried out lots of different widlife surveys we can see that the number of species within the Northwood project area has significantly increased.

Volunteers surveying plants at Northwood
Volunteers surveying plants at Northwood
Volunteers surveying plants at Northwood

None of this would have even been possible in the first place without the hard work and dedication from our volunteers.  Without them, we would not have planted so many trees or been able to monitor them in their early establishment; Nor would we have made all the wooden tree guards on site, record all the vital wildlife data and so much more.  Yes, we could have paid contractors to do all this work but that did not feel right. By inviting our local community to help, not only did they come in droves to support the project, they also became part of the Northwood legacy.

A huge heartfelt thank you to all who have been involved in making Northwood what it is today, and may this support continue as the woodland grows.