Bye Wood bluebells hint at ancient past

Thursday 2nd June 2022 4:00 pm
Bluebells on Exmoor
Bluebells on Exmoor (Supplied )

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A SEA of bluebells has sprung up at Bye Wood in Exmoor National Park, where a major new 12-hectare woodland is more than halfway through being planted.

Although an open hilltop for many centuries, the beautiful display suggests the site may once have been tree-covered for thousands of years.

Senior woodlands officer Graeme McVittie said: “It looks absolutely stunning. The bluebells must have persisted beneath the bracken for several hundred years since it last had a tree canopy.

“Now we‘ve managed the bracken they have flourished. These are ancient woodland indicators, so we are in a sense re-creating the conditions for an ancient woodland.

“We engaged Somerset Environmental Records Centre at the outset to ensure any change of land use would be nature positive and the bluebells are a very good sign we are unleashing that potential.”

Jack Hunt, Exmoor National Park Authority woodlands assistant, added: “Since we’ve started controlling bracken and planting trees, the suppressed bulbs have re-activated, and flowering bluebells have carpeted the site. As our new trees grow, they’ll provide dappled shade and help to maintain and diversify the new woodland’s ground flora.”

The planting of Bye Wood has received major support from the National Park’s CareMoor Woods & Trees Appeal, including substantial donations from Somerset West and Taunton Council, Exmoor Charitable Trust and a highly popular exhibition of artworks hosted by Lanacre Barn Gallery.

Planting for the project began last winter, with a total of 8,000 trees already in the ground, including species such as sessile oak, mountain ash, Scots pine and Devon service tree. Among them are also a special grove of 70 locally-grown sessile oaks, planted by volunteers as part of the Queens Green Canopy to commemorate Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee. The final 5,000 trees will be planted this winter, with the help of volunteers and contractors. Deer fencing will be used until the young trees establish.


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