August in the Forest
The school summer holidays were always a happy, carefree time in my childhood. I was content to play in the garden: generally something involving mud, dens and bows and arrows! I would have loved to have some open country on my doorstep instead of miles of suburbia.
This month I expect to see family groups out enjoying the forest on foot and bicycle. The huge increase in visits during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 has calmed down but many people have continued to use their newly-discovered local countryside, and it’s very good to see. The public footpaths are there for everyone, while cyclists and horse riders are limited to bridleways. There are a number of concessionary paths too in the forest, where landowners have given limited permission, and there is a general right of access on all land owned by the Forestry Commission and Natural England although it’s preferable to use marked trails for safety and to avoid disturbance to sensitive wildlife. The Guild of St. George’s woods in ‘Ruskin Land’, on the Bewdley side of the forest, are private but crossed by a few public footpaths (but no bridleways) and the use of the major tracks by walkers is accepted. This year six new interpretation boards have been erected at points of interest along the paths to help people to appreciate the history and wildlife of the area. One of these just south of Uncllys Farm is shown in the photo.
Of course these articles have to be written well before the month in question, so I have no idea what the weather will be doing by the time you read this. Will the countryside be recovering from the drought and high temperatures of July? Will water be rationed and the forest streams reduced to a feeble trickle between connecting pools? Or could we even be experiencing flash flooding due to heavy downpours of rain? Both lack of water and too much water cause problems for wild creatures as well as us. Desperate for water, animals can look for unfamiliar sources and eat juicy leaves or fruits normally untouched. The leaves and green apples in our orchards attract deer, wasps, hornets and flies, especially so in dry weather. Pools and garden bird baths become vital not only for birds but for bees and all manner of flying and creeping creatures. (If you put out a dish of water put some pebbles in too to help insects etc. gain access). In flooding conditions stream-dwelling creatures can get washed out of their usual habitats. Silt and stones are carried along and water courses are re-shaped. Flying insects and birds have to shelter from heavy rain and may be unable to feed. Sustained flooding will fill the air spaces in soil and kill plants and soil organisms. I hope that nature will be kind to us as and give us moderation this month!