Ivy on trees is often the subject of great debate. On one hand it casts dense shade and on the other it’s a valuable source of late season nectar, but one October morning a group of conservationists walked through Hisley Wood with a view to protecting some of the ivy clad larch trees above the derelict remains of Boveycombe farmstead.
They were on site to provide advice to the felling team who would select and save some of the monumental larches for the benefit of bats. As bats and their roosts are protected by law the Woodland Trust and its contractors needed to understand where the most likely places were for woodland bats to roost. Many species are known to use these trees and pipistrelles, noctules and long-eared bats all frequent the Bovey Valley. Even the rare barbastelle will use ivy on larch as an occasional refuge.
The ecologists from Devon Wildlife Consultants studied each larch tree in the area where thinning is required. This whole exercise was a balancing act between encouraging lichen diversity, shrubs and ground flora and maintaining safe roosts for bats.
The ecologist explained “It’s not just about the amount of ivy on the tree, it’s more to do with the thickness of the ivy stem. The most attractive crevices for bats are created where the larger ivy stems are close to the tree bark and provide a deep protected space for them to shelter in”.
After an hour of walking along the woodland rides and looking up at each larch tree in turn the woodland contractors were happy they could identify the trees to save and the trees to cut, allowing in the sunlight to the woodland lichen and plants beneath.
As the team left the woods beams of sun illuminated large clumps of deep green ivy. In the pools of light it was buzzing with autumn insects from bees to the aptly named speckled wood.
Hisley Wood is a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the assemblages of lichen and other natural diversity. The Woodland Trust and Natural England manage this reserve for the benefit of wildlife and the expertise from Devon Wildlife Consultants is an essential element of conserving the various habitats along the valley.
Blog post by Matt Parkins (Woodland Trust)