WEST HILL BLOG NO.10 Improving Goat Willow Wood

Improving Goat Willow Wood

Since our jungle busting efforts with the Devon County Council Apprentices in improving Goat Willow Wood, I’ve been thinking how best to improve the area & encourage more wildlife. 

Brambles cleared with DCC Apprentices

Because of the rampant Bramble & strong growing Goat Willow, current plant diversity is limited to Nettle, Hog Weed, Dock and a handful of ground covering plants. Keeping a smaller quantity of Bramble is  preferable as they are important food crops for Caterpillars, grazing deer and small mammals.

By reducing the Bramble however, more space & light can penetrate the woodland floor which will provide greater resources for new plants to establish. In time, this will lead a higher diversity of insects, birds & mammals.

Generally speaking, UK woodlands have the greatest number of visible plant species between March and May, taking advantage of higher amounts of natural light before leaves form on the trees.

These are the plants I would like to establish in the wood;

Native plants to use in woodland

Flowering Period
Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)
Wild Daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus)
Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger)
Dec - Feb
Stinking Iris (Iris foetidissima)
June / July
Wood Anenome (Anenome nemerosa)
March / April
Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)
Bluebell (Hyacinthoide non scripta)
Bugle (Aduja reptens) 
April / May
Dogs Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)April / May
Primrose (Primula vulgaris)
Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
May / June

The upper canopy comprises of Goat Willow which is a bit of an issue as being an opportunist that thrives in damp areas it has a tendency to take over.  With the exception of a few spindly Ash & Birch, there are no other trees. 

Goat Willow Wood ... casting deep shade  

In order to establish a more diverse ground flora, the Willow needs to be thinned. When more space allows, other native trees will be planted  including Hawthorn, a floriferous tree that flowers in May and is an important food plant for a variety of insects and birds including Blackbirds, Thrushes, and Greenfinches etc. Other trees include The Mountain Ash & Wild Cherry. 

I’d also hope to plant some lower canopy species including Hazel, Spindle and Field Maple with scrambling Honeysuckle & Dog Rose.