The 8 acres of ancient woodland at Eden Valley provide a wide pallet of trees and vegetation, from towering oak trees to delicate orchids that are home and food for vast numbers of insects and butterflies. But it is not just the woodland that supports our abundant wildlife, the open grasslands, the ponds and even the bramble and nettle patches sustain insect and animal life that would not survive in other habitats.
Amongst the grasses in the summer months the sound of crickets is a continuous noise. Bees, butterflies, dragonflies and other insects fly or move across the grasses in search of food from wild flowers and vegetation. Ragwort, a plant often pulled up in many fields, is spread over the grassland and is home to the larvae of the Cinnabar moth, as well as many other insects. This moth has been in steady decline for several decades so by letting the ragwort at Eden Valley remain we are helping to sustain the local insect population.
We have two ponds at Eden Valley, tucked away in the south-east corner. These ponds are home to a a pair of Moorhens which have raised young there every year over the last few springs. The ponds are also visited by ducks, grey heron and if you are really lucky you may catch a glimpse of a Kingfisher. In spring and summer the ponds are alive with frog spawn, larvae, dragonflies and a host of wildlife.
The importance of brambles in a natural setting are hard at first to see but over time their role becomes clear. Thick bramble patches may appear to be a sign of human neglect but they provide protection and food for small animals, birds and insects. The bramble flowers in particular attract bees and insects in their thousands over the summer months, their beating wings producing a beautiful low humming sound as you walk by.
Nestled among the bramble patches you can often see very young oak trees, which are just starting to grow above the brambles. These infant oaks have been protected by the bramble from male deer which will often kill unprotected young oaks by rubbing their antlers up and down the tree, stripping it of its bark. The bramble allows these young oaks to grow in relative peace and eventually become the amazing trees that form the basis of much English woodland.
Nettle patches are largely left alone at Eden Valley. They are a breeding ground for many species of butterflies as the nettles stinging hairs offer protection to buterflies and catepillars from many potential predators. More than 40 species of insects are completely or partially dependent on nettles for food and shelter.
Since the 1930’s the UK has lost 97% of its wild flower meadows. To help combat this loss in a small way we are in the process of establihing a wildflower area in our first field. This is a long process that takes several years and is not achieved by simply throwing seeds over a field. This project is being led by a gentleman local to the area and who has a loved one buried at Eden Valley.