Walk report: Further notes from the Vereley walk

Further notes from the Vereley and Ridley Woods walk by Andy Skarstein

Ridley Wood is ancient, coppiced from the 1500’s until 1698 when the practice of pollarding Oak and Beech trees was forbidden in the New Forest by an Act of Parliament ,so as to safeguard long timber for the navy.[1]  The woods have many fallen and dead trees, mainly beech, but some oak too, both providing valuable habitat.

“From medieval times the wood was used for coppicing.   Ridley Wood is mentioned in Norden’s 17th century survey of coppices as a place where land was leased to tenants for exploitation of the underwood only.  In 1571, the tenant of Ridley Coppice was accused of pollarding 200 trees and selling the cut wood, thus exceeding his rights. To compound his crime, he also cut young oak to make fences.”[2]

Beech trees are not usually long lived, 300 years on average.  They are very thirsty, so suffer from lack of rain, though don’t like water logged soil either.  In the New Forest they are vulnerable to being blown over as their wide spreading roots don’t enter the clay below.

 Before entering Ridley Wood, we saw a good example of inosculation, where an oak and a beech had self grafted.

Information of where to find Ancient and Veteran trees in the UK can be found at https://ati.woodlandtrust.org.uk/?_gl=1*1rra7da*_ga*NjQ4ODAwMjg0LjE2NDQ4NzA4MDU.*_ga_YYKVQEPV0X*MTY1MDczOTk3MC4xNi4xLjE2NTA3NDAxNDEuNTU  Just put a place into the search facility, then click on a highlighted tree, a small box will pop up telling you what the tree is, click on the box and more info and photos will come up regarding that particular tree.

A PDF can also be downloaded from the Woodland Trust explaining what ancient, veteran and other trees of interest are:   https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/publications/2008/11/what-are-ancient-trees/?_gl=1*d8bs8*_ga*NjQ4ODAwMjg0LjE2NDQ4NzA4MDU.*_ga_YYKVQEPV0X*MTY1MDczOTk3MC4xNi4xLjE2NTA3NDA4MDYuMTI.

Mill Lawn Brook was crossed twice.  It rises just south of the A31 and is fed by additional tributaries rising from Harvest Slade Bottom before flowing through Burley and then eastward via Markway Bridge and Puttles Bridge where it becomes known as Ober Water.  The Ober Water continues to flow eastwards to the north of Brockenhurst where it joins the Lymington River at Bolderford Bridge. [3]

Ridley Bottom:  In the brook itself we spotted Water-crowfoot.  We had some discussion about whether or not we were looking at Ranunculus novae-forestae– named for the New Forest, where it was first found.  A crib sheet separating out the different Water-crowfoot species can be found at https://freshwaterhabitats.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/THREE_LOBED-WATER-CROWFOOT-CRIB-SHEET.pdf

The other notable plant seen was Petty Whin, which was just coming into flower.  It has decreased drastically across the UK and apart from the New Forest is found only in eastern Scotland, south Wales and Devon.  It grows in moist open grasslands and heathland on acid soils. It likes areas where the ground does not get too dry and where the soil is a little richer. The drier fringes of bogs and acid pasturelands are ideal for it. This is a species that definitely requires grazing.  One of the main reasons for its decline has been a lack of grazing in many places where it used to grow. [4]

One of the fungus we saw was the miniscule Grey Disco which is a ‘spore shooter’.  It is common in Britain and is found on dead wood, usually on the underside of logs when rolled over.

Another fungus was Split Gill, a small fan like wood rotting fungus (below). Interesting information about this common fungus can be found at https://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/feb2000.html


The slime mould ‘False Puffball’ (below) was seen in its reproductive phase as a white 'swelling' on a branch of a fallen tree. 

[1] https://www.british-history.ac.uk/statutes-realm/vol7/pp405-408


[3] https://www.hlsnewforest.org.uk/app/uploads/sites/3/2018/03/Environmental_Impact_Assessment_Report.pdf

[4] https://www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/discover/plants-fungi/heathland-plants/petty-whin/