Monday, 11 May 2015

Boothland Wood

It's the early part of May, which means it's time to go and see some bluebells.  We have a bluebell wood, Views (Williams) Wood, just a few hundred yards from where I live. I looked round my old friends: the bluebells, the strange stumps and the kingcups on the May Day bank holiday weekend. Today, I visited Boothland Wood, owned by Uckfield Town Council.

Tall trees in Boothland wood.
Although I had never visited this wood before, it has been much in my thoughts recently. Within the next few years it will be engulfed by vast new housing estates.  There is also a Facebook group discussing the situation here. At a Neighbourhood Planning event that we held on the 7th of March, several people mentioned the lovely bluebells in Boothland Wood and their concerns that the wood would be spoilt by too many pairs of feet or the addition of inappropriate pathways.

The wood itself is charming. Although, like Views (Williams) Wood it is an ancient woodland carpeted with bluebells, the atmosphere is very different.  The wood is much smaller but it has a light, airy feel. Partly this is because the trees are different. Views (Williams) Wood is full coppiced sweet chestnut with some sturdy oaks.  Because it was once part of a grand house's park and adjoins a housing estate, a mixture of odd species such as sycamores and rhododendrons have been planted or have found their own way in. To my inexpert eye, Boothland seems to be full of hornbeam and elegant beeches soaring skywards.  It appears to have far fewer 'interlopers'.

Light slanting into the wood.
Because Boothland is surrounded by fields, light seems to bounce in from the slides, playing beautifully with the textures of bark and greenery.

Looking outside of the wood, you can see a farm. Seeing wool caught on the wire seems especially poignant, knowing that the sheep that once grazed there will soon be replaced by houses.

Wool caught on a fence and farm equipment in the background.
On a brighter note, the plans suggest that the farm and oast houses will be kept.

Farm and oast house.
At the moment, the woodland floor is thick with bluebells. A myriad of small paths thread through allowing a curious animal or photographer to get right into the flowers without doing any damage.  As I found my way through the wood a small group of great tits squabbled amongst themselves with little concern about the lumbering human watching them.  Butterflies flitted between the sunlit fields and flower rich woods.

Female holly blue butterfly.
The spring succession of flowers is well under way. I came too late for the wood anemones but there are bluebells, cow parsley, red camion, lesser celandine, herb robert and so many more. The delightfully named, goldilocks buttercup was a particular treat.

Goldilocks buttercup and lesser celandine with the bluebells.
I fear that the paths and the flowers surrounding them will be trampled into dust and the birds will find nesting much harder once the wood is surrounded by thousands of people and their cats and dogs. So it was a lovely but rather troubling visit. The wood seems quite delicate and will need considerable care if it is to survive the new estates.

Note: The outline planning application is here - you need to scroll down the page and hit accept to see it.  It is too late to make comments on this stage of the application.


  1. The wood was cleared a few years ago, the coppice was thinned and the old wood taken out by horse. The chap doing the work predicted that the disruption to the soil by the horse logging would encourage the bluebells, and he wasn't wrong.

    1. That's lovely. I've seen the horses working at Wilderness Wood - it was a wonderful sight. I didn't realise they would encourage more bluebells.