Chopwell Wood – Natural History, Geology & Topography
Chopwell Wood is designated as a Plantation on an Ancient Woodland Site (P.A.W.S.). It has been managed by the Forestry Commission since 1919 with full control commencing in 1923. Its current P.A.W.S. status will enable priority to be given to the regeneration of native tree species and broad leaved woodland. However, some non-native species may be left undisturbed. Prior to Forestry Commission management, the predominant species was oak, which was much depleted due to regular harvesting for various construction uses. Oak is now increasing again in number as none native species are removed.
The Forest embraces a broad biodiversity including around 60 species of birds – among them the Red Kite; a multitude of invertebrates; several amphibians including the great crested newt; many mammals such as bats and roe deer; and a profusion of trees, shrubs, plants and wild flowers which are visible from early spring to autumn. Tree species include oak, ash, elm, beech, rowan, silver birch, wild cherry, hazel, crab apple, sweet chestnut, horse chestnut, maple, sycamore, goat willow, alder, Corsican pine, larch, Douglas fir and many more.
The land on the woods western and northern flanks harbour heavy clay soils with a uniform topography, while sand and gravel predominate to the south and east, creating a varied topography of steep sided ravines and drumlins (streamlined hills made of sand and gravel formed during the last ice age).
The River Derwent winds along the woods southern edge, and has curved out a spectacular gorge through the native sandstone. The gorge is fringed by oak woods which taper down to the water’s edge. Otters have made a triumphant return to the river in recent years. The presence of this quintessential wild creature’s bears testament to the rivers improved health, vitality and biodiversity. Many water birds are visible such as dippers, grey wagtails, herons, mallard ducks, goosander and kingfisher. In the spring mayflies can be seen, their nuptial flights graceful and silent above the water. Walkers, nature and landscape lovers would be wise to include a riverbank visit, a chance to enhance their experience of the tranquil ambience of Chopwell Wood.