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Trees, plants and wildlife at Stratfield Brake

Stratfield Brake’s 2.5ha (6-acre) block of mature woodland is dominated by oak and you can find other tree species too, including ash, field maple, hazel, hawthorn and elm. Some of the oaks are suffering from a disease called Acute Oak Decline (AOD) and some areas are closed to the public as a result. The wood’s ground flora includes drifts of bluebell.

The remaining 7.5ha (18.5 acres) of woodland is relatively young and much of it was planted to mark the new millennium. It is mostly oak along with ash, hazel and field maple. More trees were planted in 2012 and they are mostly oak and birch with some hazel, field maple and guelder rose.

The young woodland is thriving and is well on the way to developing into mature woodland, with old trees, glades and self-sown trees. As it develops bluebells will slowly spread into this younger woodland.

Grassland areas are managed to encourage traditional meadow plants including ragged robin and yellow rattle. During a visit in early summer you may even see the pink flower spikes of early marsh orchid.

Marsh orchids (Photo: WTML)

 Stratfield Brake’s wetland areas are a mixture of open water, grassland and scrub. Reeds grow around the margins of the open water areas.

Wildlife

Stratfield Brake is an oasis for wildlife, especially birds. Altogether a total of 96 different bird species have been recorded, including both woodland and wetland specialists.
The most visible of the wood’s birds are its rooks, especially in early spring when they are busy coming and going to their treetop nests. There has been a large rook colony at Stratfield Brake for many years.

Other birds to look out for include buzzard, treecreeper and great spotted woodpecker. The wood’s old oak trees are also a habitat for many fungi, mosses, insects and bats.

Stratfield Brake’s new wetland area is part of a local network of similar sites. Together with the Oxford Canal and River Thames, the cluster of wetlands enables species to move between sites, creating ideal conditions for dragonflies and damselflies and for wetland birds. The open water areas and islands are used by a wide variety of birds, including mute swan, tufted duck, heron, coot, common tern, redshank, common sandpiper and ringed plover and many species of gull. More unusual visitors to Stratfield Brake include little egret and green sandpiper.
 
In summer, the taller, lakeside vegetation is a good place to spot warblers, like the sedge warbler and willow warbler, as well as cuckoo,  linnet and reed bunting.

The grassland areas around the wetland are grazed by a herd of Dexter cattle during the summer and autumn, their presence helping to create suitable wet meadow conditions for birds and insects.