Earth Day 2017

Lighting up the woods

Area of woods that has been coppiced

Peter Loy-Hancocks has contributed this blog post explaining the importing of coppicing and why it is needed in Manor Woods Valley.

As anyone who keeps houseplants knows, plants need light to grow and thrive – for most, the more the better! There are several different types of woodland in Manor Woods Valley Local Nature Reserve. The shade created by trees and shrubs in some of these are so dense that few plants grow beneath them. This is especially evident in Allotment Wood; the woodland along the northern, Bishopsworth Road, side of Manor Woods Valley.

Ivys and Ferns in a coppiced area
Ivy and ferns are the only plants that thrive in the dense shade

Allotment Wood is very young; developing naturally following the abandonment of war-time, ‘Dig for Victory’, extensive allotments on the site – hence its name. It has developed through phases, from well tended plots, to a massive Bramble patch, then through a stage of impenetrable, mainly Hawthorn and Blackthorn, scrub. Today the shrubs and trees are tall enough to allow access beneath them, but the leaf canopy is so dense that little light hits the woodland floor.

A few woodland plants, such as Ramsons, currants and young Hazels, are appearing beneath the trees, but all are struggling to survive. Ivy and ferns are the only plants that are thriving!

In 2017 Manor Woods Valley Group commenced coppicing small areas in Allotment Wood. Coppicing is the now largely forgotten practice of cutting back shrubs, especially Hazels, every few years, to encourage prolific new, strong and straight growth. Historically this re-growth was used to make a variety of items including baskets, hurdles or pins to hold thatch. There is little use for these items today! Now, when shrubs are cut-back, the debris is made in to ‘dead-hedges’, which often become covered in Brambles and Nettles, and form the same valuable wildlife functions as traditional living hedges.

Dead hedge in Manor Woods Valley
A ‘dead-hedge’ in Allotment Wood

Coppicing has the added benefit of creating lots of variety within the structure of woodland. Within a relatively short time of coppicing, Ramsons start to thrive and flower, followed by Nettles and Great Willowherb. As the Hazels and other shrubs re-grow, they again start to shade out the flowering plants, and its soon time to repeat the coppicing cycle. All this plant growth encourages a range of wildlife, such as basking butterflies and their feeding caterpillars, hunting dragonflies, pollinating bees and nesting birds.

Area of woods that has been coppiced
An area coppiced earlier this year – note how dark the surrounding woodland is and how quickly vegetation has grown once the light is let-in.
Coppiced area after 2 years
An area coppiced two years ago. The Hazels stools are growing strongly, Ramsons are in flower and Nettles are growing.

The areas that have been chosen for coppicing during the winter of 2019/20 are on the edge of Allotment Wood, near the cycle-path. These areas are sheltered and south facing, so encourage rapid growth of flowers and shrubs, which make ideal habitat for the likes of Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper and Brimstone butterflies, and Southern and Migrant Hawker Dragonflies.

Speckled wood butterfly
Speckled Wood butterfly
Close up of Southern Hawker Dragonfly
Southern Hawker dragonfly


If you would like to help Manor Woods Valley Group with the rewarding work of coppicing this winter, look out for notices posted in and around Manor Woods Valley, or on our Facebook page. Why not sign-up for our regular newsletter and receive notifications of our volunteering sessions – which are usually on the second Saturday of the month?

Butterflies in Manor Woods Valley Local Nature Reserve

Rachel Harvey has contributed this blog post about the range of beautiful butterflies you can find in Manor Woods Valley Local Nature Reserve.

Head down to Manor Woods Valley Local Nature Reserve, behold the meadows and relax watching butterflies flutter on a sunny day.

It’s the time of year for one of my favourite butterflies the marbled white. A beautiful butterfly often seen on purple knapweed and clover or resting near the top of long grasses. Black markings with a hue of white to cream. Be quick with a camera as they are quick to take flight.

Butterfly Ringlet

The Marbled white butterfly belongs to the family of brown butterflies. The brown butterflies include Meadow brown, Ringlet and Gatekeeper who are flying in the meadow and hedgerows at Manor Woods Valley and Highridge Common.

Often difficult to tell apart in flight, look out for the darker brown of the Ringlet, almost black on fresh newly emerged butterflies. Once settled its easy to spot the rings given this butterfly its name.

Butterfly Meadow Brown

The Gatekeeper butterfly is likely to be seen near or in the meadow hedge rows whilst Meadow brown flutters along and within the meadow grasses  and rests upon the wildflowers, grasses and brambles of the hedgerow.

Butterfly Gatekeeper

You may also spot Red Admiral, Common blue, Small tortoiseshell, Large white, Small white, Green – veined white, Large Skipper, Small skipper, Comma and Painted lady a visitor from the continent in these first weeks of July.

Happy spotting, leave a reply and let us know any butterflies you spot.

With thanks to Rachel Harvey for contributing this blog post.

We saw’d the sign – Good Gym helping out

On Saturday 13th April 2019, 21 runners from Good Gym ran 8.1km to help out in the woods.

“Twenty-one GoodGymmers – including a Birthday Boy and Girl – went to Manor Valley Woods to meet Martin for one of their work days. They’ve been reclaiming the old brickworks at the edge of the park from brambles with a plan to turn it into a wildflower meadow with an orchard. We’ve been out a couple times and it’s lovely to see how much work has been done.

We helped out by digging up bramble roots, snipping back nettles, and David and Phil sawed up some pallets for signs. Tom got his hands on the Root Assassin and we got Raphael wielding a spade on his first group run.

Good Gym Report April 2019

This patch of land is a Slow Worm habitat and Martin and the others are cutting back brambles on the sunny slope to expand it so that more can be introduced. Slow Worms are a protected species, they are a rare legless lizard native to the UK and are coming out of hibernation now. We were able to peek at a few under their warming mats. You can read more about them here.

Good Gym Report April 2019 2

We ran back to Mud Dock for some much appreciated birthday cake. Happy Birthday to Zdeni and David (thank you for baking)!”

With thanks to Alison Davidson, one of the Good Gymmers for contributing this blog. Find out more about Good Gym and the amazing work they do in Bristol.