SHARPHILL WOOD FLORA SURVEY 2020
Report to accompany Excel Spreadsheet ‘Flora Survey_2020’ link at the bottom of the page
Sharphill Wood is a native mixed, primarily deciduous, woodland and a designated Local Wildlife Site (formerly known as a SINC) for its important flora and fauna. In terms of flora, the canopy of the wood comprises large mature ash (Fraxinus excelsior), oak (pedunculate (Quercus robur) and sessile (Quercus petraea)), common lime (Tilia x europaea) and beech (Fagus sylvatica), with a range of other species in the understorey layer and at ground level. Around the wood is a species-rich field margin. The soil comprises a small portion of sand and gravel to the North Westerly corner of the wood, whilst the remainder is heavy red clay; the pH is variably neutral to slightly acidic, registering between 7.0 and 5.6. Generally, the woodland has a diverse structure.
This report summarises the results from a survey of the flora observed in Sharphill Wood during a number of visits made in 2020; the report follows similar surveys carried out by the author in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Scope and Methodology
The data in this report are based on 14 visits to the wood between 11th February and 7th October 2020. Each visit lasted between 1 and 2 hours; the time of day varied. As described in previous reports, the methodology comprised walking south from the Peveril Drive entrance, down to the southern extremity of the wood, before returning north to the starting point, noting species which were present at any particular time. The precise transects taken on any particular visit varied, so that as far as possible all areas of the wood were covered. These included the northern, eastern, southern and western boundaries outside the wood, and the northern, eastern, southern, central and western footpaths inside the wood, as well as less frequent diagonal transects between footpaths.
As part of mitigation measures associated with the ongoing housing development to the north and east of the wood, a post and rail fence encircling the wood was constructed in the summer of 2018. Following this, a 30 metre wide ‘buffer’ zone in between the post and rail fence and the housing development was planted up by the developers in autumn 2018, on land (formerly agricultural) adjoining the north and east boundaries of the wood. However, the extent of this flora survey was limited to the wood itself and the immediate boundaries outside the wood; specifically, including the post and rail fence but not the buffer zone.
Identification was generally based on the observed flower, aided by other salient botanical features such as leaf, stem and fruit, where appropriate. Reference was also made to the expected flowering period and geographical distribution, as detailed in two reference documents: (1) ‘The Wild Flower Key’, Francis Rose, 2006, for wild flowers and trees, and; (2) ‘Collins Pocket Guide. Grasses, Sedges, Rushes and Ferns of Britain and Northern Europe’, R. Fitter, A. Fitter and A. Farrer, 1984, for grasses, sedges, rushes and ferns. The survey also drew on the list of species previously identified.
Based on the above methodology, a particular species was simply recorded as present on a spreadsheet; no attempt was made to categorise frequency (for example, by a ‘DAFOR’ scale), or to indicate distribution locally within the wood. The methodology used is not precise and on any particular visit some species may have been missed for a variety of reasons, such as missing the
flowering period, not being in the right place at the right time, inexperience and/or simply a failure of observation. All visits were made by the author.
The data from the 2020 survey are located in worksheet ‘2017-20’ in the accompanying Excel Spreadsheet: ‘Flora Survey_2020’. A confirmed sighting of any particular species is identified by an entry of ‘20’ in column E (entitled ‘2020’). For comparison purposes, the data from the 2017, 2018 and 2019 surveys are shown by entries of ‘17’ in column B (entitled ‘2017’), ‘18’ in column C (entitled ‘2018’), and ‘19’ in column D (entitled ‘2019’), respectively. The results from earlier surveys, carried out by others, are located in worksheet ‘2001-15’. For convenience, as in previous surveys, the results are grouped into: (i) wild flowers; (ii) grasses, sedges, rushes and ferns, and; (iii) trees.
From the surveys carried out by the author to date, it has not been deemed practical to indicate in any detail species distribution locally within and around the wood. However, it is clear that some species are found only in the wood, whereas others are found only in the species rich herbaceous zone between the wood and the surrounding fields. An attempt was made to quantify this aspect of species distribution in the worksheet ‘2017-20’, by colour highlighting of the 2017 data entry (column B) for those wildflower species that appeared to be: (i) only found in the wood, and; (ii) only found in the surrounding herbaceous zone. However, many entries were not highlighted, either because flora were found in both locations, or because the records were not good enough to be certain. It may be possible to add to these records in future years, although this is currently complicated by ongoing ‘change of use’ in the adjoining land (see above). In particular, the construction of the post and rail fence and the planting up of the buffer zone have significantly influenced the plants normally found in the herbaceous zone surrounding the wood, and will continue to do so in years to come.
The 2020 weather was characterised by an extremely wet winter, spells of warm and then dry weather in spring, followed by a generally warm summer. As in 2019, there was plenty of moisture in late summer and many of the woodland plants continued flowering though September and into October.
Commentary and Conclusions
The reader is referred to the accompanying Excel Spreadsheet: ‘Flora Survey_2020’ for details of the individual plants identified. In summary, 91 species of wildflower, 27 species of tree and 13 species of grass, sedge, rush and fern were identified in 2020 (a total of 131 species), including some not previously recorded. As in previous surveys, some species which have been recorded in earlier years were not identified in 2020 (these are shown by a blank entry in column E); it is likely that the reasons for this include the observational issues outlined above, species variability and the ongoing development, rather than any significant change in composition.
It is intended to carry out a repeat survey in 2021.
Richard Elliott, on behalf of Friends of Sharphill Wood