One of Fingle’s rarely visited and quieter pockets of woodland is being made available for walkers to go out and explore. The Fingle volunteers have been hard at work over the last few months, opening up a small and adventurous route beside the stream in Hall’s Cleave. The stream has been prone to flooding in the past and a new, carefully engineered high-capacity concrete culvert was built last year to allow forestry vehicles to cross the stream, leaving the water to flow unrestricted. This is not the only crossing point of the water course. The volunteers have been building a set of bridges and a board walk from local timber. Jim White is the volunteers’ supervisor and has designed the timber structures along the new walking route between Clifford Bridge and the forest tracks towards Mardon Down.
While some of the volunteers have been assembling the chunky timber structures, others have been working further along the route, clearing vegetation. Jim explained “pulling the grand fir seedlings will open up the path and allow the extra sunlight needed for the woodland wildflowers and other plants”. The wildlife habitats along the stream are varied so the walk should be very interesting. Jim continued to describe how “two bridges and a board walk are in now and bridge number three is underway. As the path meanders along the valley, it crosses the water a few times before going into ‘new territory’, a new part of the route”.
This is where, later in the year, the volunteers will be building some ‘leaky dams’ to hold back some of the water in times of high flow. Slowing down water flow like this can retain silt, prevent soil erosion, improve water quality and reduce flooding. It is also expected to allow some valuable wetland habitats to develop. There are already signs that some interesting wildlife inhabits this part of the wood. Last year, a rare running lichen spider was found here and recently, some otter spraint was found on a boulder, marking a territory. The otter spraint included some bird feathers, showing that they move around the wood looking for different food sources as the seasons change.
This woodland ‘corridor’ is probably home to a number of woodland bats that are likely to use the valley for foraging and commuting between Mardon Down and Clifford Bridge. Tom Williams (aka The Gadget Man of Fingle Woods) has set up some bat sound recorders here to monitor their activity. The SM2 (Song Meter) recorder will capture the calls of passing bats over the summer. These recordings will then be sent to a bat researcher at the University of Bristol. Tom is hoping to be able to prove that a range of woodland bats are currently living here, explaining that “there are two microphones being used. One is near a veteran oak, a possible roosting tree, and the other is over the water where the Daubenton’s bat is likely to be foraging. We’re likely to pick up pipistrelles and, if we’re lucky, there could be some rare barbastelles”.
Tom’s sound recordings of bats have been slowed down 10x to bring them into the audible range of humans.
Greater Horseshoe Bat
To be continued …. Keep reading the blog to find out how the footpath develops and whether any new wildlife discoveries are made.
by Matt Parkins