England: Burnham Beeches

It was so sunny and inviting outside this morning I proclaimed to Mark, “we need to *go* somewhere, or *do* something!” We started looking around for nearby National Trust attractions or parks or caves. We came up with a few ideas that warrant revisiting with a little more planning. For instance, visiting Cheddar, where the largest gorge in England is located along with more cave systems. Or Warwick Castle. Mark came up with the idea of going to Burham Beeches, which is a nature reserve of over 500 acres just a few miles from where we live.

Although I know we weren’t going very far from civilization, both the drive and this park make you feel like you are driving into the middle of nowhere. We were on several single track roads ensconced by trees in full autumn regalia. Once we found a place to park we made our way in on the paths and forest floor carpeted in crunchy leaves. It turns out this is a very special piece of woodland. It is a slice of ancient woodland. More than sixty of the species of plants and animals here are either rare or under threat nationally. The area is protected as a National Nature Reserve and as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

We had such a lovely walk in the woods. Climbing the amazing pollarded trees and running through the leaves. The pollarded (yes, it’s a verb) trees are cut as a woodland management practice. This is where tree limbs are all lopped off at two or three meter height. This encourages a knobbly growth and was used for harvesting firewood that didn’t actually kill the tree. The result are these enormous trees that are hundreds of years old that look fabulously crooked and crinkled with a spray of numerous limbs sprouting from a single point.