The Humble Bramble Bush
Following on from my previous post: If a person with a strong interest in nature spends enough time exploring a wood, 16 years in my case, they are likely to become much more aware of what is occurring in its day-to-day life than the casual observer or regular dog walker.
I have been thinking about the importance of Hoo Wood to its very close neighbour Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve. Simple things like the effect of the east facing sloping aspect of the wood, and that of the opposing west bank of the 650 metres wide X 39 metres deep Lower Stour Valley they feed into. On warm sunny days, buzzards are seen lazily circling high in the sky above the marsh; fast rising thermals lift them almost to the point of invisibility. I have felt cool air rushing down Hoo Wood bank to replace the warmer air being sucked from the valley floor by these thermals. This might seem a small thing, but insects caught up in the breeze flowing through Hoo Wood’s oak trees are carried down onto the marsh and along the valley bottom to the River Stour, and further to the River Severn and beyond. It’s the many small things that contribute to the ultimate success of the marsh ecology. Wilden Marsh doesn’t exist on its own, it is fed from outside; we should take proper note of this, and plan accordingly.
Have you ever wondered where the birds go at night? Well, in Hoo Wood some hide amongst the leaf mould under its many thick bramble bushes. Only owls, pigeons and crows roost in the oaks. Rooks roost in trees along the west bank of the valley. Even in daylight, many birds are seen and heard rummaging for titbits in leaf mould protected by sprawling brambles. So, in Hoo Wood at least, brambles provide valuable habitats for a variety of small creatures such as birds, mice, rats and invertebrates. Bramble bushes are also fertile hunting grounds for small predators like hedgehogs, shrews, polecats, ferrets, weasels and stoats. I often hear screaming from deep within the bramble bushes. My Welsh cocker spaniel, Spike, has an ability to twist and wriggle his way through any of Hoo Wood’s viciously thorned bramble bushes, without any apparent harm to himself, as he follows attractive scents. There is also the bumblebee nest I found in a bramble bush on the weekend.