The Bluebells of Cookham

The Bluebells are such a pleasure at this time of year and a stroll round Cliveden, or Pinkney's Green is always a joy.  However, the Cookham Wildlife Supporters were handed an even rarer treat on Saturday when over 30 members enjoyed a stroll around the Wildlife Heritage Site, Pigeonhouse Woods.  The land is owned by David and Margaret Harrold who live at Little Harwood in Choke Lane, and they are passionate about conservation and managing their land in the best way for the environment.  Bluebells are the sign of an ancient woodland because of their slow rate of growth, and considering the carpet that greeted us, it must indeed be a very old wood.  The weather was kind and the sun out, which provided some lovely photo opportunities as beams of light filtered between the canopy of mixed trees - including Oak, Lime and Sweet Hazel - to spotlight the flowers.  Woodlands require management to maintain the optimum conditions and maximize diversity and Margaret explained how she had originally intended to replace fallen trees (storm Doris claimed the most recent), with only native species.  However, it turns out that to re-plant only truly indigenous species is quite limiting, so there are now a range of saplings including Wild Cherries taking advantage of the small clearings.  Young and old followed a single path that meanders around the woods as David and Margaret provided commentary.  We saw how new growth is protected from hungry deer by the traditional method of covering with twigs and branches.  How strategically positioned bird boxes encourage familiar woodland species like Great Tit and Blue Tits but how larger boxes have been sited to appeal to owls.  There have even been sightings of the Hobby in the woods, a Kestrel sized bird of prey that looks a bit like a giant Swift.  David mentioned that up until the Great War, the wood was regularly coppiced (the practice of cutting some trees hard back to the ground, to encourage re-growth) after which the management ceased, because there was simply no manpower to continue.  Such a sad fact.  In addition to the woods, they have a meadow area with two deep ponds that were literally teaming with tadpoles at all different stages of development, which fascinated the children.  And then a further 44 acres of pasture land.  In the distance at the far side of this field, is a swathe of Cowslips.  These were actively sown by the couple, but came from a hay crop taken off Pinkneys Green that was de-seeded and then drilled into the land. 
The afternoon was finished off with a cup of tea and some home made flapjacks, taking in the magnificent view of Windsor Castle from the more manicured gardens of the house.  A great debt of thanks is owed to Mr. and Mrs. Harrold for the opportunity to share in their spectacular property.

Cookham Wildlife Supporters is a voluntary group.  Please consider supporting by joining via the Meet Up page or the Facebook group.  Events are run all year, for every age group and the calendar can be found here.


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