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Wildlife, trees and plants at Ashenbank Wood

Due to the numerous veteran and windblown trees left from the 1987 storm, the site contains a high amount of deadwood habitat which supports a varied and interesting population of fungi, bats and invertebrates such as beetles which only exist in deadwood.

At least one of these beetle species is recorded as Red Data Book category 2 (vulnerable) and 17 species are listed as notable (nationally scarce).

The site also supports other important and diverse invertebrates including true bugs (Hemiptera), a nationally significant collection of beetles (Coleoptera) and dragonflies (Odonata).

Rare and threatened wildlife includes the great crested newt, dormouse and Leisler’s bat.

Trees and plants

Ashenbank Wood’s habitat of Ancient Semi Natural Woodland, which covers approximately 40% of the site and wood pasture or old parkland which covers approximately 60% of the site, blend together as a mixed habitat with only subtle changes in tree species and ground flora.

In the former wood pasture or old parkland area, secondary woodland of mainly sycamore and birch now dominates but there are also numbers of ash, field maple, hornbeam, oak and sweet chestnut, old open grown hornbeam standards and coppice stools. Also set within this habitat are significant veteran trees which were established in the late 18th century as part of Humphry Repton’s landscape design for Cobham Hall (which once owned the area now known as Ashenbank Wood) comprising mostly sweet chestnut but also with a mix of the species contained in the secondary woodland with the addition of hawthorn and wild cherry. A tree survey in 2004 confirmed that there are 135 trees which are classified as ancient, the oldest being 350 years old, with girths of up to six metres.

The ground flora in the wooded parts of the wood pasture or old parkland habitat is sparse with dog's mercury and bracken being the most dominant species, together with bluebell, creeping soft grass and rough meadow grass; whilst three ancient woodland indicator plant species – speedwell, wood sorrel and wood fescue – are mainly confined to ride edges.

In 1999 a survey recorded 382 species of fungi of which 21 were rare and 134 were occasional or uncommon. Several of the rare species were mycorrhizal, indicating a long biological continuity of tree/soil biodiversity. There were also rare species on decaying wood and eight different natural hollowers.