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About this wood
Situated on a south facing valley side on the very eastern edge (just outside) the Yorkshire Dales National Park (this area is excluded from the Park due to local quarrying activity and MOD firing ranges). The woodland sits immediately to the north and west of the small village of Preston-under-Scar forming an important landscape backdrop to the village.More about this wood ...
Within the woodland, hard limestone bedrock is exposed in a number of large steps, especially evident to the north and east with a small broken cliff up to 4m in height, with areas of extremely shallow soils and exposed scree common throughout the woodland. The whole site, although outside the Yorkshire Dales National Park, is included within the Richmondshire District Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation and is designated as Ancient Semi Natural Woodland as part of the NCC Draft Inventory of Ancient Woodland 1987. Ancient woodland is an extremely scarce resource in this part of the Yorkshire Dales, however the woodland does for part of a larger chain of broken woodlands following the valleys sides, although these are mainly estate plantation woodlands, designated as planted ancient woodland and have lost much of the ancient species. Land use to the north-east, east and west and is grazing land, with plantation woodland to the north and remnant heavily grazed ancient woodland to the south-west.
The site is composed of 1ha of pasture grassland and 9.9 Ha of Ancient Semi Natural Woodland with 2.5 ha of planted new native woodland (2003,2007 and 2011). The pasture is partly unimproved, although the 1 Ha triangular area closest to the management access (cleared of stone, ploughed and re-seeded to try and establish some better production) was only maintained like this for a couple of years. The edges of the pasture bordering the woodland have remnant woodland species with bluebells and dogs mercury still evident along with large numbers of primrose. Within the area of unimproved pasture is a small (just under 0.1Ha) wet flush/ marsh which have managed to survive through the sensitive management of previous owners. This is dominated by hard rush (Juncus inflexus) with frequent marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) and a good variety of Carices. Previous sheep grazing has favoured ragged robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi) which is abundant and spectacular during June flowering. Seepage is also present to the east of the pasture where carnation sedge (Carex panicea) is abundant.
The woodland is dominated by ash, with sessile oak, remnant elm and a very small proportion of planted mature sycamore. The sycamore is most evident on the lower slopes accessible from the pasture and appears to have been planted in the late 1800’s or very early 1900’s for possible timber production. The under storey is dominated by frequent hazel coppice, and where the ash woodland opens up towards the upper slopes, hawthorn scrub tends to dominate. As with many upland ashwoods, although here it is likely compounded by the effects of grazing, there are frequent glades and openings, bracken is common along with species-rich calcareous grassland, creating an irregular, complex transition of habitats from the ash woodland through hawthorn scrub , bracken and grassland to the limestone outcroppings forming the north eastern boundary to the wood. Other under storey species along the exposed limestone outcrops include blackthorn, wild gooseberry (Ribes uva-crispa) dog rose, soft downy rose (Rosa mollis) and spindle (Euonymus europaeus). Within the woodland, in combination with the rabbit browsing, sheep grazing has reduced the successful establishment of natural regeneration to almost zero, and has almost certainly increased the area of open space within the woodland.
Edge habitat were the greatest amounts of regeneration would be expected is limited to scattered hawthorn., although in areas dominated by limestone scree, some ash regeneration is establishing along with blackthorn. The ground flora is spectacular, not just for the number of species present, but for the variety of habitats that are evident within such a small area, including Ancient Semi Natural Woodland, unimproved calcareous grassland (including limestone outcropping), continuous bracken, scattered bracken, dense and continuous scrub, dry modified bogs, marshy grassland and scattered scrub. Bluebell, dogs mercury and wood anemone dominate the mature ash woodland areas with huge swathes of primroses on the more open and sunny south facing slopes.
Access to the woodland is available along a public footpath via two steps over stiles following almost the entire south-western boundary through the open pasture and then ancient woodland. There is a second permissive path running almost parallel through the woodland at a slightly higher level, which is not maintained but remains well used by local people. It was recorded on early maps as a footpath but omitted from later OS editions. A short spur runs north-east through the woodland giving limited access to some of the areas of open ground and scrub, then leading out of the wood to public footpath via unimproved grassland, with the permission of the owners. Management access is limited to the field gates onto the pasture, from the north-western extremity of the wood, direct from the minor road.