Trees and plants at Tring Park
Separated by avenues and wide rides, the wooded areas are identified as five different woods - Bishop’s Wood, Nursery Wood, Bull’s Wood, Park Wood, and North Pest House Wood.
Much of the woodland at Tring Park is classed as a Planted Ancient Woodland Site (PAWS). These areas have remnants of ancient woodland flora and some characteristic over-mature beech, oak and ash. They were planted with non-native conifers and beech during the 1970s and 80s and their dense shade contributed to the demise of much of the ancient flora.
Recent thinning has been aimed at reducing the coniferous element and opening up existing broadleaves and areas of regeneration.
Ancient woodland flora and trees
Areas of Tring Park contain specialist woodland flora, which are a key characteristic of ancient woods, as well as other important species such as veteran trees, lichens, fungi and deadwood. These species are part of a complex ecological system and do not spread easily to new areas.
Woodland and mature avenues on the upper slopes sweep down the escarpment to the rolling downland of the park where beautiful copper beech and aging Scots pine catch the eye. The land that now makes up the park may always have been lined with trees to give protection from the sun and wind, and currently it’s fringed with an avenue of mature beech around 200 years old. It’s recorded on the map by A. Dury and J. Andrews in 1766, as the main avenue on the west side.
In some areas of the site large bushes of box are occasionally found growing alongside yew – remnants of the former landscaping. Other species around the site include horse chestnut standards, Japanese larch and a small number of red woods.
Approximately 50 young parkland trees were planted throughout the park in 2000/2001 to succeed the current majestic specimens when they begin to deteriorate with age.
A small wooded area on the western edge, known as Bishop’s Wood, mainly comprises gnarled beech and mature ash, which was last thinned in 2000. Several large beech and horse chestnut standards are also present, established around 1850, along with a few younger wild cherry.
The wood has an easterly aspect and borders Hastoe Lane to the west and scrub woodland to the east. Running south to north is a deeply carved track of some antiquity, lined with an avenue of mature beech of at least 200 years old. There are also some linear earthworks that run almost parallel with this feature.
Part of Bishop’s Wood was felled and replanted with broadleaves and mixed conifers in the 1970s. It is now dominated by ash and beech, along with some massive lime and a few Scots pine and larch of average form. The understorey consists of abundant ash regeneration which is responding well to the extra light from the recent thinnings.
Bluebell, primrose, mosses and sedges make up most of the ground flora, with much of the woodland floor covered with ash seedlings.
Ground flora includes grasses, moss and bramble, with several large decaying stumps also present.
Nursery Wood was planted in rows around 1955 and is a mix of beech, ash, cherry with the odd larch, Scots pine and Douglas fir. Some majestic, ‘monstrous beech’ in the northwest corner are the highlight of the wood. The understorey is mainly occasional holly, hawthorn and elder along with increasing ash, sycamore and laurel.
Ground flora includes a fantastic spread of bluebells in the spring, along with primroses, grasses, ferns and bramble.
The chalk grassland
The site also contains the second largest area of unimproved calcareous grassland in Hertfordshire, with the escarpment, Oddy Hill and much of the open parkland designated Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to the presence of locally uncommon and rare species. These include common spotted orchid, common rock rose, milkwort and large thyme. Other species that can be found alongside include harebell, cowslip, cornflower, field scabious and autumn hawkbit. Oddy Hill is the smaller part of the SSSI but is perhaps the more valuable for its population of Chiltern and autumn gentians.
The remainder of the park is neutral chalk grassland which is vitally important as a buffer to the more valuable SSSI.
One of the major threats facing this type of habitat is the absence of controlled grazing resulting in scrub encroachment and woodland species colonisation. A sensitive grazing regime has therefore been introduced which will play a big part in the restoration and conservation works we will continue to undertake at Oddy Hill and in the main parkland area.
Also buffering the grassland are pockets of scrub, mainly comprising hawthorn, elderberry, bramble and occasional ash or hazel. This is improving in biodiversity year-on-year. There are also grassed ant hills throughout the park, but mainly on the south-facing slopes.