DCS: Local Heritage Event:
Spring Visit to Buff Wood
Saturday 14th April 2012 Return to Alumni Events
Our annual spring foray took us to Buff Wood (situated near Hatley-St.George) this year. Buff Wood is good example of one of the ancient South Cambridgeshire woodlands situated on boulder clay. It covers 15.6Ha and has had a complicated management history resulting in old moats, ditches and banks rides with areas of ancient coppicing, ridge and furrow or unmanaged woodland. It has been an SSSI since 1958 and it is well known for it's spring flower variety which include early purple and spotted orchid, oxlip, primrose, buebell, wood anemone and green hellebore as well as a good selection of fungi, insects and breeding birds. The wood is in private ownership but maintained by the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust and we applied and received a group permit.
We assembled nearby, at just about the limit of numbers for such a trip, in the car park of the Village Hall where we had kindly been given permission to park. Here we met Professor Oliver Rackham who was leading our trip. He has studied this wood for years and he told us that his links to the wood go back to his undergraduate days at Cambridge. He is also the leading expert on the history of the English countryside so we were very lucky to have him with us. The wood is in the ownership of Michael Astor who is an enthusiast for the wood as we discovered when he joined us for the walk. Oliver introduced us briefly to the history of the wood and came armed with several photocopied sheets about various aspects of the wood and it's history, the first of which we received during the introduction.
The walk was punctuated not only by time to see and hear about the natural history as you would expect but also the wood's history. So we were shown ancient ditch and bank boundaries as well as ridge and furrow which were explained in more detail and we were taught how to recognise them in amongst the present day vegetation. We were told how the history of the wood has defined it and which types of flora were typical of a wood of old age as well as some of Oliver's research in the wood which had shed new light on the subject. Oliver and Michael combined to talk about new initiatives which the Wildlife Trust and was taking on using knowledge accumulated. The discussions ranged widely from a cross of primrose and oxslip which we saw, to the present problem of deer density. All in all it was a fascinating day.
The discussions continued in the Queen Adelaide Public House where we were booked for lunch. This was almost a disaster as apparently the chef had just been taken seriously ill and the second chef had gone missing! The licencee and his family filled the gap with a lot of hard work and a limited menu so that they could honour the booking. This all went smoothly and we are very grateful to them for all the time they spent at the last minute.
On behalf of the DCS may we extend our thanks again to Oliver Rackham for all his wonderful knowledge presented so interestingly and for the preparation time he must have spent. Our thanks also go to Michael Astor for letting us see his wood, joining us and adding to the information.
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