Hoo Wood is shaped like a bent finger pointing roughly north to south along the steep eastern side of the Lower Stour Valley. Nestling between Hoo Farm Industrial Estate and a small residential estate, oak and birch, with a sprinkling of sycamore, larch, elder, rowan and apple trees grow here. Sunrises and sunsets are a joy to behold along a ridge path that runs the entire length of the wood.
The wood follows Wilden Marsh, Wilden Lane, the River Stour, and the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal for part of their journey to the River Severn, 2.5 miles downstream. During winter, I can look down on the whole marsh from the ridge path, but only the northern section during the other seasons when trees and bushes are in leaf.
Herds of ten or more Muntjac deer hide in the dense bramble between the trees on the steep ridge bank. At night, their eyes stare down at me, glowing brightly in the beam of my head torch. I regularly see these little deer wandering the ridge path early mornings and late evenings when out walking Spike. They have their own hidden trackways, often close to perimeter fences, enabling them to move about unseen by dogs and their walkers; foxes and badgers also make full use the deer tracks.
This narrow strip of nature suffers from its proximity to industrial and residential pressures, as does the marsh, but I’ve seen the situation improve over recent years. A few concerned individuals have taken it upon themselves to remove accumulated waste and litter, which is to be commended. There is less garden waste being dumped, which is encouraging. Perhaps Hoo Wood is now being unofficially recognised as a nature resource instead of a hidden place to dump fast food packaging, green waste and tree prunings.
Being a local high point with much standing oak deadwood, Hoo Wood is a haven for green, great spotted, and the occasional lesser spotted woodpeckers. Wild bees and hornets make use of old woodpecker holes. Tree creepers, nut hatches, tits and buzzards nest in the dead and dying oaks, so care must be taken to remove only dangerous unstable standing deadwood. A huge variety of invertebrates overwinter under the raised bark of dead oaks. I guess what I am trying to put over here is that standing and fallen dead wood is as valuable a resource as living trees, and we should not be in a rush to cut it down.
The image is of a oak apple gall. If you look carefully you will see something is burrowing in, or maybe it’s on its way out. Since it is a little early in the year for the wasp developing inside to make its way out, another parasitic wasp could be burrowing in to predate the gall inhabitant. Well, this is what might be happening.