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Trees and plants in Hedley Hall

The long, narrow valley of Ridley Gill contains ancient semi-natural woodland and was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1985. It forms part of a much larger complex of linked woodlands that includes Beamish Woods to the south.

The wood consists of three distinct types of high forest woodland: oak-hazel in the north, and wet alder and ash-elm as you move south. The latter two are uncommon woodland types in this area. All are national and local Biodiversity Action Plan priority habitats.

The oak-hazel woodland is dominated by pedunculate oak with a sparse understorey of coppiced hazel and holly. Ground flora is mainly creeping soft-grass but also includes bluebell, greater stitchwort, wood sorrel, male fern, bracken and bramble.

The wet alder woodland is dominated by common alder, goat willow and downy birch. Ground flora is mainly reed canary grass, tufted hair-grass, marsh horsetail and soft rush, but also includes meadow sweet, marsh marigold, lady’s smock, bugle, water avens, yellow flag, common valerian, wild angelica and broad buckler-fern. There is also an abundance of greater tussock-sedge, this being one of only four sites in Co. Durham and Tyne & Wear where this species is found.

Ash and wych elm dominate the wood at its southern end with elder forming an understorey in places. There is also some sycamore. The ground flora contains sanicle, wood avens, hedge wound-wort and dog’s mercury. There are two small clearings with bracken and a scattering of birch and rowan.

Expanding the wood

After Hedley Hall first came into our care in the 1990s, we planted 46.34ha (114.5 acres) with native broadleaved trees and shrubs on former arable and pasture land.

The species planted are similar to those of Ridley Gill and now form a protective buffer for the ancient woodland. It links into the Beamish woodland via Mill Wood in the south, and to the southwest through the part of Ridley Gill not owned by the Trust.

We'll be planting another 20,000 trees in 2018 to further boost this buffer and create valuable habitat for local wildlife.

Open ground

In September 1997, 5.95ha (14.7 acres) of open ground were sown as hay and wildflower meadow, but since 2007 they have been managed as grazed pasture. This provides a valuable habitat adjacent to the new woodland.