21 Mar 2018
How much do you know about the wonderful woodlands?
From a miniature type of deer to children sat around a fire, to high-tech meteorological equipment and hotels for bugs – if you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise!
Today (Wednesday, March 21), marks International Day of Forests 2018 – a day that provides a platform to celebrate all types of woodlands and trees and raise awareness of their importance.
The University's Sustainability Team feel it is apt time to highlight some of the interesting activities that take place in Holywell Wood and Burleigh Wood and the different wildlife that resides there.
Loughborough University Research Forest
The Geography department has equipped Holywell Wood for long-term forest monitoring.
After clearance during WWII, part of the woodland was planted in Ash and part regenerated naturally to contain a mix of Silver Birch and Oak.
This makes it an excellent facility for understanding the dynamics of UK forests in a changing world, including the future impacts of urban expansion and disease.
The research forest has eight permanent plots; each contains a meteorological station that monitors air temperature, humidity, photosynthetically active radiation and soil temperature.
Permanent soil collars have been installed to measure soil respiration and a litter trap is located near to each one so litter fall can also be monitored.
As of 2016, Holywell Wood has been used as a Forest School. The scheme, which was launched by Loughborough University and Westwards Nursery, sees children visit the woodland three to four-days-a-week throughout the year.
Youngsters are given opportunities to explore the area, learn to identify the flora and fauna, as well as make fires, build dens and climb trees.
The nursery, which has coordinated with the Sustainability team, also makes use of sustainable resources including a fire circle built from local wood, and bug and hedgehog ‘hotels’ made from naturally sourced materials.
Both woods are home to an abundance of wildlife. Asides from the common birds, the Grounds and Gardens team have spotted sparrowhawks, kestrels, buzzards, tawny owls, little owls, little egrets, woodpeckers and kingfishers.
They have also seen badgers, foxes, rabbits, weasels and muntjac – a small breed of deer known as the 'barking deer'.
The bats from Bathaus also hunt around the woodlands and at least 11 different species have been recorded.
Last June, a family of mandarin ducks nested in an owl box in in Holywell Wood and using their special ‘forest cam’ the team were able to capture incredible footage of ducklings leaping from the nest.
Habitat piles made from hazel and other trees can also be found in the woodlands as can a variety of fungi, flowers and fascinating trees.
Blankets of bluebells will appear in the woods in May and the Sustainability team aim to lead a guided walk mid-way through the month.
Sustainability Manager Jo Shields commented: “Both woodlands are listed on the Leicestershire Inventory of Ancient Woodlands which means they have been there since the 1600s.
“Only 13% of the UK is covered in woodland and forest and only 2.3% of this is ancient which makes us very lucky to have access to approximately 15 hectares on campus.
“They provide a great opportunity for a lunchtime walk or run and are full of birdsong from March to September.
“Footpaths are clearly visible in both woods and they’re both open to staff and students. I definitely recommend a visit and making the most out of what we have on our doorsteps.”
For more information on International Day of Forests 2018, visit the website.