Wet woodlands are rich in wildlife, and Gelli Hir (Long Grove) is such a place. A mixed broadleaved woodland, it still has remnants of its ancient past. Grading from damp oak, birch and willow to drier ash, sweet chestnut, sycamore and beech, it surrounds a central pond; there’s also alder along the network of small streams, and hazel coppice in places.
On a bright sunny morning, dappled light shoots through the canopy onto moss-covered twisted roots of old trees, providing support for newly emerged wood anemones and wood sorrel, and, looking like clenched fists, young ferns shoot from the woodland floor.
Over the years the Wildlife Trust has put much effort into maintaining the pond and old shooting groves; dams have come and gone, but the final sturdy moss-covered stone solution will last for generations. A thoughtfully placed seat by the bank makes an ideal place to sit and watch. There have been grey wagtails here for the forty years I’ve known the wood; long tails wagging, they fly-catch expertly above the smooth water as it glides gently over the top of the dam. The pond is a stage set, waiting for spring actors to appear and moorhens are already here, carrying dead grasses to a nest site on the island of willows. With a noisy splash, a pair of mallards makes an entrance right; they’re immediately spooked and head for cover. Blackcaps, chiffchaffs, willow warblers, nuthatches and buzzards provide the music, as do all three members of the thrush family singing in turn.
Butterflies patrol sunny glades and the cleared groves. Peacocks, orange tips and a single comma are freshly hatched, and I hear the background buzz of bees and hoverflies. There will be other butterflies in their season, but the real star of these woods is the silver-washed fritillary, but I shall have to wait until June to find one.