The woodlands of the Eastern Moors are found around edges of the estate; forming in valleys and below the gritstone edges. They are an important part of the estate, creating different places for wildlife to live and for people to enjoy. Much of the wildlife that lives in the woodlands cannot live on the moorland, particularly birds that are adapted to woodland life. Some of the animals, such as the red deer, use the open habitats but also rely on the woodland for shelter. So having healthy woodlands means even more wildlife can thrive, both in the woodland and beyond.
The trees that create the woodlands are ones that can grow depending on things like weather, soil and water. Most of the woodlands are typical upland woodland; birch, oak and rowan being the main trees, with bracken, heather, bilberry and grasses growing below, while mosses form clumps and carpet boulders. In the wetter places trees such as willows and alder take over, these woods are known as wet woodland. Here the waterlogged ground is covered in plants like rushes and sphagnum mosses.
Conservation and woodland management
The woodlands have something of interest during every season. In the spring the migrant birds return for the breeding season, as the buds burst and spring flowers appear, the woods become alive with song. During the summer the plants take over the woodland floor creating a different, secretive, place to explore. While a summer evening walk is often rewarded by roding woodcock flying overhead. Autumn brings changing colours and changing wildlife, as summer migrants leave to be replaced by winter visitors. As the trees shed their leaves the fungi take centre stage with an array of toadstools materialising. The birch trees can be at their most beautiful when frozen during a winter cold spell, and animal tracks can be followed in the snow. The retreat of bracken and other plants reveals a hidden story of use by people as holloways, millstones and quarry workings reappear.
Much of the woodland on the Eastern Moors is young, thought to have established after large fires in the 1950s. Only small areas, often with oak or beech trees, predate this. It is possible to tell this by ‘reading’ the woodland. Taking a walk through the woods below Curbar and Froggatt edges there are clues to look out for:
- Industry – these edges were quarried, with many signs still visible on the ground; it is unlikely that there would have been substantial woodland cover as this would make working and extracting the stone difficult. It is also possible to see trees growing on top of the spoil left behind after work stopped early in the 20th century. To learn more about the history of the estate click here.
- The woodland is dominated by birch - this is a species which is quick to colonise new areas with other species take longer to establish.
- Even age – the trees are the same size, meaning that they all regenerated at the same time.
- Tall thin trees – the young trees would have been competing for light so would grow upwards as quickly as possible, resulting in tall thin trees with a small crown (top of the tree with the braches and leaves).
- Scattered large oak trees - these trees are wide rather than tall, with large spreading crowns. They could only have matured in the open, with the space and light to allow them to grow outwards rather than having to compete with other trees forcing them upwards.