International day of forests

The 21st March is the International Day of Forests, which is the perfect time to celebrate some of our wonderful woodland nature reserves

Many of our nature reserves contain patches of woodland, some of them very important within the mosaic of other habitats protected in the area. Trees within grassland or heathland habitats provide valuable shelter, breeding habitat and food for many creatures. However, here we will focus on just a few of our nature reserves which conserve some of the larger areas of forest in our two counties.

Pamber & Upper Inhams Copse

Pamber Forest was unmanaged ancient woodland when the Trust took the nature reserve on. Without traditional techniques like coppicing, the forest was not supporting as much wildlife as it should so species were starting to disappear. By coppicing stands of trees, bringing much-needed light back to the forest floor, some of these species began to reappear. The nature reserve is fantastic for butterflies and moths, with 606 moth species recorded in 2020 (the highest ever). In addition to this incredible invertebrate diversity, the woodland is also home to hazel dormice, adders and nightjar. In Spring, the forest floor is studded with wildflowers such as wood anemone, wild daffodils and bluebells.

Upper Inhams Copse, to the east of Pamber Forest, was bought by the Trust in 2001, following a gift left in a Will with a wish that it be used to buy woodland. Gwen Talmey donated in memory of her parents, Samuel Jesse Coakes and Elizabeth Verina Coakes.

Gwen's generosity meant that we could add to a nature reserve that was already managed for wildlife. Adding more nature-rich habitats in the area helps to join-up the landscape for wildlife and create a wilder Hampshire and Isle of Wight.

Image of pond in Pamber Forest by Peter Emery

Pamber Forest pond by Peter Emery

Chappetts Copse

Chappetts Copse is a stand of ash and beech woodland within the Meon Valley, nestled on the edge of the South Downs. Rare orchids are a speciality on this reserve - fly and bird’s nest orchids and broad-leaved helleborine are all found in good numbers. Dormice, tawny owls and great spotted woodpecker nest and breed in the forest and if you are lucky you might spot a hare at the woodland edges.

Edith Whitehead kindly left us the reserve in 1981, one of the first gifts of its kind for the Trust. Chappetts Copse has been managed to protect the range of wildlife it is home to ever since.

Chappetts Copse by Mark Heighes

Chappetts Copse by Mark Heighes


Bouldnor Forest

This woodland reserve can be found on the Island which means a special treat not found in Hampshire’s forests – red squirrels! You can spot them leaping between the branches and performing aerial acrobatics as they chase each other through the leaves.

As most of the trees are conifers there are some other unusual species to be found in Bouldnor, including the crossbill. These birds have specialised beaks to pick the seeds from pine cones. Goldcrests are also abundant, as they flit up and down trunks and branches looking for insects in the bark.

Bouldnor Forest stretches right to the coast, with a view back to the largest of the forests in our two counties, the New Forest National Park.

Red Squirrel © Dr David Williams

Red Squirrel © Dr David Williams

Shutts Copse

Shutts Copse is a small section of hazel woodland which was given to the Trust as a gift in the Will of the late Honourable Miss Joane Dutton. It is one of our best sites for hazel dormice, as this declining mammal as a healthy population in the wood. Dormice feed on hazelnuts and berries, but because they are nocturnal, you’re unlikely to see one. But you can be safe in the knowledge that they are around somewhere nearby if you decide to visit this nature reserve.

The Trust coppices the woodland, allowing wood anemone, primroses and bluebells to flourish amongst the trees.

bluebells under hazel copse

Threats to woodland in Britain

Sadly, woodlands in Britain suffer numerous threats, which are compounded by global factors like climate change. Forest cover is already lower here than the rest of Europe - around 13% compared to the average of almost 40% - so protecting the woodland we have left is vital for wildlife and as a natural solution to the climate crisis.

In the past century, many tree diseases have reached our shores, from the devastating Dutch elm disease which took hold in the 1960s, to ash dieback which is still spreading in Britain. Other pests pose a threat to our native trees and, as the climate warms, they can more easily survive in our climate. Beetles, bugs, flies, fungi and bacteria in various forms threaten trees and are very hard to control once they arrive. Better regulations on the import or movement of live plants are needed to stop these diseases and pests from reaching us and threatening our woodlands.

Lack of management can also be an issue for forests, as we lack the large animals which would, in the distant past, have shaped these habitats. Human activity like coppicing is essential to get more light to the forest floor and encourage a diversity of wildflowers.

The Trust’s woodland nature reserves combine with the other habitats we protect to create a nature recovery network in our counties and beyond. We hope you enjoy exploring them this #InternationalDayOfForests

Find out more about leaving a gift in your Will