The woodlands at Swan Barn Farm

The woodlands at Swan Barn Farm

With its mix of coppice, ancient and new woodlands, Swan Barn Farm forms a mosaic of habitats for all kinds of animals and plants.

Ancient woodland

Veteran oaks, with scatterings of bluebells and wood anemones, indicate the ancient origins of the Swan Barn Farm woodland. Ancient status means the area has been continuously wooded since at least 1600. With a focus on improving its value for wildlife, we manage these woods by clearing non-native softwoods, removing invasive species such as rhododendron, and creating glades for specialist woodland species such as the speckled wood butterfly.

Throughout the woodlands in spring, bluebells create colourful carpets of blue and green on the woodland floor. Alongside the bluebells are other ground flora species such as wood anemone and primrose, which add another splash of colour to the woodlands. These species are special as they take a long time to spread, so they need the consistent presence of ancient woodland to thrive.

Bluebells in the hazel coppice at Swan Barn Farm, Surrey
Bluebells in the hazel coppice at Swan Barn Farm, Surrey
Bluebells in the hazel coppice at Swan Barn Farm, Surrey

A boon for biodiversity

The combination of open meadows and woodland edges at Swan Barn Farm attracts a wide variety of birds and invertebrates to the estate, including up to 27 different butterfly species alone.

Bats use the woodlands for hunting, and can be seen chasing insects up and down the woodland edges at dusk. Several species have been seen in the woodlands including pipistrelle and Daubenton's. It’s very possible that the bats are living in the woodlands, as there are plenty of veteran trees that would make very comfy roosts.

A working wood

The woodlands are maintained for the production of timber for varying uses. The hazel is coppiced and used for stakes and lightweight poles, and the bigger species such as oak, ash and chestnut are used for charcoal and construction.

The timber from the woodlands is used in the construction of some of the building around the estate. The timber is used for anything from floorboards and cupboards to the buildings’ timber frames themselves. The wood is also used to make charcoal in our charcoal kiln, which we then sell to help fund future conservation work.

Newly made charcoal in the kiln at Swan Barn Farm, Surrey
Newly made charcoal in the kiln at Swan Barn Farm, Surrey
Newly made charcoal in the kiln at Swan Barn Farm, Surrey

Managing woodlands for timber production has many benefits for wildlife, too; for example, coppicing on rotation helps create a varied structure in the woodland, improving the diversity of habitats available and providing more homes for wildlife.

Protected residents

As well as the “usual suspects” like foxes and deer, the woodland at Swan Barn Farm is also home to a population of dormice. Throughout the woodland we’ve put up dormouse boxes, which provide places for the furry critters to nest and help us monitor the population.

A dormouse found on a survey at Swan Barn Farm
A dormouse found on a survey at Swan Barn Farm
A dormouse found on a survey at Swan Barn Farm

If you spot a dormouse nest box, please resist the temptation to open it. Dormice are a protected species, so it’s illegal to interrupt their naps without a licence!

All in all, the woodlands here at Swan Barn Farm are a great place to spot wildlife of all kinds. Take a stroll through the glades and copses and see what you can find.