Deer Park Wood

Jonathan Noel writes:

On Saturday 5th June on a very hot morning 17 members visited Deer Park Wood in Witney. We had a very interesting introduction to the history and recent activity of the wood from our leader Roger Hepworth and his wife Esther of the Witney Woodland Volunteers (WWV). The land on which the wood stands used to be part of RAF Witney and in 1940 was taken over by De Havilland. During the WW2 Spitfires and Hurricanes were repaired and maintained here. The land is now owned by West Oxfordshire District Council and they have given WWV a ten year agreement to manage the wood. We learnt about ‘old one eye’ a female muntjac living in the wood and her boyfriend ‘split ear’. The movements of the nocturnal animals are recorded on night time cameras and then shown on their website/facebook page. When WWV took over this 11-acre site it was in a sorry state. Since then they have planted hundreds of trees and transplanted wild flowers. The WWV have regular work parties to maintain the wood.

Roger and Esther then took us all on a gentle stroll through the wood which comprises two wooded areas and a glade running through the middle. It is a very valuable community resource, used regularly by local residents for walks; there is a hedgehog club for pre-school children and, in pre-covid times, the local Park Run went through the wood with 250-300 people participating. Hedgehogs are doing well here some of which have been released from the local Minster Hedgies rescue centre. Roger showed us some fossils of Brachiopods found on the site which are about 250 million years old. The wood does have its challenges though; we saw some diseased cherry trees and ash die-back is present. Also the soil is clay and in winter parts of the wood get very wet.

The group then moved out of the of the wood, crossed Range Road and went into an area of undeveloped land with great potential to increase its already good biodiversity. WWV hope to be able to manage this site in the future and are in discussions with the District Council as owners about this.

We were all very impressed with the work achieved by WWV and feel this is a very special oasis for nature. In particular we thank Roger and Esther for leading this walk.

Species seen/heard include:

Birds: chaffinch, blackcap, and great spotted woodpecker.

Butterflies: orange tip, common blue, speckled wood, green-veined white and brimstone.

The ‘tents’ on some young trees close to the southern entrance later tenatively identified as belong to the caterpillars of Bird Cherry Ermine Moths

There is a full list of all the species seen in the wood on the WWV’s website.