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L I V E 2 4 -SE V EN


WOODLAND WANDERS FOR WINTER WILDLIFE WONDERS!


Debbie Stenner, Gwent Wildlife Trust


As the air chills, mornings get mistier and days darken, we might need extra encouragement to venture out. Fortunately, the many ancient woodlands of the lower Wye Valley provide just the incentive. Although at first glance, the landscape might look dull or bleak in these colder, barren months, winter can be a fantastic time to get out and be uplifted by the vibrant sights, sounds and smells of nature.


The deep valley ravines from the rivers Usk to the Wye are rich in ancient, broadleaved woodlands, which, at this time of year, offer earthy smells of musting leaves, fiery-hued fungi and unexpected wildlife encounters.


Gwent Wildlife Trust looks after several woodland Nature Reserves in the lower Wye Valley region; my favourites to visit in autumn and winter are Prisk Wood SSSI and


Croes Robert Wood SSSI. Prisk is a very special ancient woodland, situated on a steep slope above the River Wye. A particularly striking feature is its mass of mosses, liverworts and ferns which carpet boulders, tree stumps and fallen tree trunks creating an immersive soft green world. Croes Robert covers a larger area near the village of Trellech and is managed through coppicing particularly to provide habitat for one of Britain’s most threatened species of mammal – the Dormouse. You can find out more about these woods and how to find them on our website gwentwildlife.org and in our Nature Reserves Guide.


Most of my forest forays are taken at a running pace, appreciating the striking colours as the sunlight filters and flickers through the canopy along with my changing perspective, illuminating a patch of feathery ferns here, a moss and lichen-covered log there. I might be treated to the startling appearance of a buzzard, gliding silently across to another tree; or the hollow, insistent knocking of a woodpecker (all three species of British woodpecker can be found in Prisk Wood). But, to discover the most intricate of natural wonders, a less purposeful path is required.


Fungi represent a huge and fascinating kingdom with over 15,000 species in the UK, living on land, in the water, in the air, and even in and on plants and animals. And, the cool dampness of the Wye Valley is particularly conducive to their survival. Nationally infrequent lichens occur on limestone rocks, old trees and wet boulders. Our fungi


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