“The most important cluster of ancient woodlands in Warwickshire.” – The Local Biodiversity Action Plan for Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull
The Dunsmore area includes 20 woodlands covering 618 hectares and represents more than 10% of the whole of Warwickshire’s ancient woodland.
A network of hedgerows, fields and meadows connects these woods. The ecological ‘veins’ of the landscape, hedgerows are a vital habitat for many species of insect, birds and mammals. Bees, vital to the health of our farming and countryside, contribute an estimated £430 million to the UK economy each year (read more).
Our ancient semi-natural woodlands, such as Wappenbury Wood and Ryton Wood, are home to many birds (e.g. Lesser-spotted woodpecker, Willow warbler), bats (e.g. Common pipistrelle and Noctule bats), fungi and flowers (e.g. bluebells, wood anemone and primrose).
Often dark and neglected following cultural changes over the last century, sensitive restoration management will ensure they continue to be ecological hotspots into the future.
The area contains 233 km of hedgerows, providing a vital habitat corridor through the farmed landscape.
Some hedgerows are remnants of earlier woodland, whilst the majority were planted during the Enclosure Acts of the 17th and 18th centuries. Some of the oldest mark our medieval parish boundaries.
As woodlands were cleared, they made way for arable land, pasture (i.e. permanently grazed fields) and meadows, areas of grassland that were cut for ‘hay’ each summer.
These meadows were a prized asset to the farmer, as they provided fodder for livestock in the winter. From a conservation point of view, traditional hay-meadows can be places of high plant and insect species richness. Nationally, there has been a 97% loss of these unimproved semi-natural grasslands in the 20th century.
Draycote Meadow is one of the best traditional meadows locally and is found just outside the Dunsmore area.
Many hundreds of species of insect can be found in the area’s woodlands, including the rare Purple Emperor butterfly and other woodland specialists including the Wood White, Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral.
Find out more about British butterflies here.