About the siteThe spring wildflowers and evidence of old banks and boundaries suggest there has been woodland here since at least 1600. Many specialised plants and insects, that are slow to colonise new areas, are found in the ancient woods. This adds to the conservation value of the site.
Adjoining the Basingstoke Canal
Evidence of past human activity is also preserved in the coppiced stands of hazel that run through the woodland. Coppicing encourages trees to throw out new shoots by cutting them back to ground level.
The trees in coppiced woods have a distinct multi-stemmed form that is still evident a hundred years after coppicing stopped. Coppicing can also benefit wildlife and is still practiced as a modern conservation technique.
Traditional woodland management
Most ancient woodland in the UK has been managed in some way by humans for hundreds of years. Two traditional techniques are:
- coppicing - cutting at ground level to encourage new shoots to grow
- pollarding - harvesting wood at human head height. This prevents grazing species, such as deer, from eating new shoots
Both techniques encourage new growth and allow production of timber and other woodland produce.
Management of Zebon Copse today
Zebon Copse Local Nature Reserve is managed with biodiversity for people and wildlife in mind, rather than produce. But modern woodland management techniques often resemble the traditional methods. This has significant benefits for wildlife.
Regular tasks to maintain and improve biodiversity at Zebon Copse include:
- coppicing - there is an explosion of plant life from the seed bank when an area of coppice is first cut. This is because the soil gets warmer and there is more sunlight for the seeds. The flowers and herbs that thrive in open sunny areas (glades) of woodlands flourish after coppicing. This also attracts caterpillars of many different types of butterfly
- holly clearance - thinning of the thick under-storey of plants, such as holly, helps light to penetrate the soil. This is done on a rotational basis and also encourages woodland wildflowers. While some areas are cleared, we always ensure that other areas are left to grow. This ensures there is plenty of food and shelter for animals
- keeping the mire open - the willow that grows in the wet mire is cut in rotation every year. This helps conserve this important and rare habitat for plants and animals
- dead wood - standing and fallen dead wood is often left as habitat for invertebrates. These small creatures are a major part of a woodland food chain, providing food for birds, mammals and amphibians
- plants - clearing glades encourages the growth of wildflowers, grasses and brambles. This also benefits the animal species associated with these plants
The woods are filled with colourful wildflowers from spring through to the summer. Many of these flowers are 'ancient woodland indicators' and important food sources for pollinating insects. They are generally slow-spreading and poor-colonisers. So, if they are present in high numbers, it is likely they have been around for a long time. Bluebells carpet the main area of woodland from April-May and a beautiful display of marsh flowers can be seen from the boardwalk running through the wet mire between April and August.
North Area Office, Basing House, Redbridge Lane, Old Basing, RG24 7HB
Phone 01252 870425