The wood was purchased, freehold, by the Woodland Trust from private owners in 1986. The acquisition was supported by the Countryside Commission (now Countryside Agency) and South Ribble Borough Council. Dog Kennel Wood is 4.92 hectares (12.16 acres) in size. It is in two parts which originally were joined; the much larger area of Dog Kennel Wood at 4.73 hectares (11.69 acres), and a very small area now called Island Wood at 0.19ha (0.47 acres).
Dog Kennel Wood is long, wide woodland of even-aged mixed, mature broadleaved trees and shrubs on both sides of the valley of a small stream, the Hennel Brook, which flows from south to north, in a busy, suburban area, just mile south of the city of Preston. To the south is Cockshott Wood, a very similar wood that merges into Dog Kennel Wood. It is partly bounded to the west by young woodland, (some of the extensive tree planting carried out by the Commission for New Towns as Central Lancashire New Town developed in the late 1980’s), and partly by small pasture fields. These effectively buffer the wood from the A6 London Way, which runs parallel. Immediately to the east and surrounding the small fragment of Island Wood is Cinnamon Hill housing estate. To the north (where the wood is very narrow) are an area of rough grassland, and an area of mown grass then Hennel Lane.
The wood is directly adjacent to the large housing estate of Cinnamon Hill in Walton-le Dale and easily accessible. Parking is available on the nearby roads, and access into the wood is on foot.
The main part of Dog Kennel Wood has a total of 5 entrances. The easiest to find is the entrance that leads south off Hennel Lane (B6230), which is a well-known road locally, linking the A6 London Way with the B6258 Chorley Road. Other entrances can be found off Marlborough Drive and Alexandra Road on the estate. The remaining 2 entrances are from adjacent land to the west.
Island Wood is largely open, and can be accessed directly from Marlborough Drive and Allerton Road.
There is a network of just over 1,000m of permissive paths, most of which are well surfaced creating a variety of little walks, 5 bridges (including 3 over the Hennel Brook), and the meadow grassland. The paths also link into Cockshott Wood, London Way and the new town recreational area and a public footpath across the fields. Dog Kennel is varied and attractive, especially in spring, with a good display of flowers including bluebells, lesser celandine and wild garlic, and the stream and pond are interesting features. Public events for local people take place regularly, notably the annual bonfire and occasional summer BBQ and are very popular.
The wood is very visible to all the neighbouring houses, and also from the main A6 London Way leading southwards out of Preston. The trees of Island Wood are a prominent landscape feature both to neighbours and people passing on the adjacent roads. The whole area is very well used, mainly by local people and children.
The wood has always been well used and known locally. Shortly after it was acquired, by the Trust, local people were helped and encouraged by the Woodland Trust to form the Dog Kennel Community Woodland Group in 1987. This has the aim of involving local people in the management and care of the wood. This initially started the practical work of removing piles of rubbish, creating and surfacing footpaths, building bridges over the streams and general wardening activities. The group has been extremely successful, effective and well motivated over the many years that it has been constantly active. Additional work and skills includes tree felling (thinning), selling timber and wood, pond creation, organising bonfire nights, summer parties on site as well as dealing with the administration and running of the group and communication with locals and the Woodland Trust. They are well equipped and organised, and continue a regular programme of activities and work. On the edge of The Meadow is a metal tool shed, used by the Community Group.
Because of regular, sustained and enthusiastic local involvement, many of the problems and difficulties of managing an intensively used, small, urban wood with difficult management access have been resolved. It has been possible to implement works gradually, largely by hand, and with a constant presence and communication of local volunteers. As a result the wood is an excellent example of a well-managed urban wood, much valued by the local community.
Not much is known about the history of the wood. There is a copy of a 19th century map on file, with names of various parts of the wood, some of which indicate woodland, but others indicate fields and some are ambiguous. The origins of its name are uncertain, and locally it has been commonly known as Banks or Bonks Wood. On the Tithe map of 1838 the northern section is named The Banks, as it is on a later Ordnance Survey map of 1848-49. This latter map also shows the northern and southern sections (including island Wood) as wooded, but the middle section as fields. The name Dog Kennel first occurs on the Ordnance Survey map of 1893. Like a lot of similar woods in the local area, it mainly occupies sloping land with wet soils, too difficult to cultivate in the past, and so was either used for grazing or as woodland. The evidence on site and anecdotally suggests that it was clear felled (apart from some of the larger willows by the Brook and the area of island Wood)) possibly during the second world war in the 1940’s, and then left to regenerate which it did extremely successfully. Later, in about the 1950s, the flatter fields surrounding it were developed for housing, and only the woodland protected by Preservation Orders survived. Island Wood was continuous with the main part of Dog Kennel until at least 1938, and may only have been separated when the road was built for the housing development. In the 1980’s there were proposals to put a caravan park within the wood, and later to sell it to be felled for firewood. It was shortly after this that the Tree Preservation Order was placed upon it.
Geology & Soils (taken from the Management Plan written 1989).
Solid & surface geology: Triassic formations of the Mercia Mudstone Group (Kuerper marl) are overlain with Boulder Clay. Soils: Undifferentiated soils on valley sides with associated colluvial deposits. Relief and drainage: Drainage tends to be poor due to the clay soils and, in places where the soil has been disturbed by pipe-laying, marshy patches is common. Natural drainage ditches lead off the wooded slopes in Hennel Brook. The valley sides vary from moderately to steeply sloping with a maximum slope of approximately 50%.
The wood is semi-natural ancient woodland, a Biological Heritage Site and covered by two Tree Preservation Orders. It survives in an area with very low woodland cover; South Ribble has less than 2% woodland cover of any kind, and only 166ha of ancient woodland. It is important for all these reasons, plus it is one of the few ancient woods that are easily accessible for people to enjoy and become involved with. Dog Kennel Wood consists of even-aged, mixed, mature broadleaves with a well-developed under storey, well preserved ground flora and excellent regeneration. It is probably NVC Type 8, lowland mixed broadleaved woodland. The predominant tree species are sycamore, pedunculate oak, with some wild cherry, ash and alder and several large willow close to the Brook. Beech is common, with a few horse chestnut, common lime and occasional crab apple. The distribution of the species is not even, however, with the middle section dominated by oak, some of the lower slopes by alder, and the rest, which is the majority, by sycamore. This appears to correspond with former land use (described in detail in the first Management Plan written 1989), with the middle section formerly being pasture, and the rest definitely ancient woodland. It may be that the oak was planted. Most trees date from 1940 and many are multi-stemmed as a result of tree felling, but the streamside willow and trees on Island Wood are older and larger, probably dating from 1900. The wood used to contain considerable numbers of wych elm but all the mature trees were killed by Dutch elm disease in the 1980’s. There is some wych elm regenerating from these roots and stumps, however this also keeps dying from the disease. The under storey includes hawthorn, hazel, elder, holly, rowan, and blackthorn. Regeneration is very prolific consists of a mixture of ash, sycamore, cherry, and some oak, with hawthorn, hazel and holly. In the centre of Dog Kennel Wood there is an open grassland area called The Meadow, which is attractive and beneficial for informal recreation, and has been the site for summer parties. Within The Meadow a small pond has been created, to make some amends for the many ponds that have disappeared in the surrounding area. Although fenced (for safety reasons and to prevent dog disturbance) it does add to the wildlife interest with beetles, dragonflies and frogs.
On Island Wood after repeated and extensive tree safety works the remaining trees (in 2003) consist of just 15 mature broadleaved trees: 5 each of oak, beech (one of which is outside the Woodland Trust boundary) 3 sycamore and 1 each of ash and lime. Young trees were planted in groups as replacements in 1993, around the edge of the mature trees, and these are now growing well. They consist of a mix of native species: oak, ash, birch, rowan and hawthorn. There is a large open area has been the traditional site for the annual bonfire, for many years.
Two main areas of tree planting were carried out from between 1987 to 1995: around the edge of The Meadow, and in several small patches on Island Wood.
The ground flora of Dog Kennel Wood is typical of ancient woodland on steep, shaded, fertile damp slopes in NW England, with prolific bluebells, lesser celandine, wild garlic and red campion, as well as wood sorrel, wood anemone, dogs mercury, enchanter’s nightshade and less common plants such as opposite-leaved golden saxifrage, giant horsetail, pendulous sedge and muscatel. Several of these are indicative of ancient woodland. There is evidence of early planting, possibly as cover for pheasant shooting long ago with a small patch of rhododendron, wood millet and formerly a patch of snowberry. Later on, there is evidence of dumping of garden species, with a large patch of variegated yellow archangel (near the middle bridge) and giant hogweed, which has recently been eradicated. Himalayan balsam colonised and has become more widespread along the streamside since the late 1990’s. The plants of Island Wood, by contrast, consist mainly of common species, especially rank grasses and patches of nettles.
The Hennel Brook runs south–north through the whole wood, and the bank sides provide a damper habitat, some of which are in flux as erosion, deposition and slumping all affect the banks. The stream itself is still rather too polluted to support much wildlife. There are probably numerous small underground streams, and much of the wood is on a slope. Small-scale subsidence occurs regularly throughout the wood, and the bank side is unstable in areas.
There is a good variety of bird life, with chiff chaffs and jays frequently in the area and tawny owls and great spotted woodpeckers are occasionally present. Bird boxes have been put up and maintained by members of the Community Woodland Group, and used very successfully, probably because there is a chronic lack of older trees or standing deadwood. The wood supports a surprisingly variety of wildlife including foxes.
It is not thought that the wood was managed in the years prior to acquisition. It was in private ownership and officially had no public access although people did go in. When acquired in 1986 the first work by the Woodland Trust was to fell the dead elms for safety reasons and subsequently tree felling for safety reasons has continued, particularly on the Island Wood. Dog Kennel Community Woodland Group has carried virtually all the other work to date (2003) which has included creating: over 1,000m of path, 5 bridges, a pond and small areas of tree planting. Regular management work to: thin approx 2ha (5 acres) of woodland, extract and sell the timber, regularly cut the grassland areas, constantly remove rubbish, and clear the stream.
The housing estate has been a source of encroachments and rubbish dumping, especially garden waste, and although this has been cleared and strongly discouraged since the Trust took ownership of the wood, it still occurs regularly and has to be followed up. Since the development of the housing and nearby industrial premises up until the mid 1990’s the Hennel Brook was categorised as grossly polluted (Class 4), with regular discharges of raw sewerage, as well as one-off incidents (including an oil spill and detergents/milk washing) and it contained virtually no life at all. The sewer pipe, which runs the length of the wood, has also had problems with raw sewerage bursting out of manholes when the system is over loaded. However, after pressure from the Woodland Trust some of these problems have been resolved or reduced and the Brook now classes as badly polluted (Class 3), with signs of life slowly returning.
At acquisition Island Wood consisted of a remnant group of mature trees, none in good condition and indeed the elms had just died. There was no regeneration, partly due to shading but also due to the rubbish dumping, very heavy use and trampling of most of the site as a playground. The Trust has worked here specifically to rejuvenate the wood by planting young trees, putting up small fences to define and zone access, and discouraging rubbish dumping.
Many boundaries abut houses, gardens or fields and are the neighbour’s responsibility. The Woodland Trust has maintained the boundaries to Hennel Lane and Alexandra Road. There is no marked boundary to Cockshott Wood, or the young woodland to the west.