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The WoodlandsFuelling a Revolution

The Heritage Woodlands support a wide range of wildlife, some of which is either found only in ancient woodlands or which is otherwise uncommon in South Yorkshire.

The irregular shape of some of the woodlands results in them having a long woodland edge relative to their area. This enhances their value for wildlife; edge habitats frequently being richer and more diverse in both plants and animals than the communities they lie between. The juxtaposition of woodland edge and open ground enables birds and mammals to exploit the food resources of the grasslands while retaining the protection of the woodland.

Glade in Gibbing Greave
Glades such as this one in the centre of Gibbing Greave often support a large number of insects and other invertebrates.
The different woodland types, together with the other habitats found within the Heritage Woodlands support a wide range of invertebrates, a number of which are ancient woodland indicators. For example, over 500 different invertebrates have been recorded at Canklow Wood, including a number of nationally scarce species. The best Heritage Woodlands for invertebrates tend to be those with a varied woodland structure, an abundance of dead and dying wood, and areas of wetland.

Another factor that increases the number and range of invertebrates is the presence of open habitats such as glades and grassy rides within or adjacent to the woodlands, especially where these are south facing. For example, the south facing glades of Buck Wood in the Gleadless Valley make this site particularly suitable for invertebrates requiring warm sheltered conditions, such as soil-nesting solitary bees, wood-nesting solitary wasps and the butterflies, Meadow Brown and Small Skipper.

Other butterflies and moths recorded in the woodlands include Holly Blue, Common Blue, Meadow Brown, Small Skipper, Small White, Purple Hairstreak, Speckled Wood, Orange Tip, Green-veined White, Comma, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Red Admiral and Dotted Border Wave.

The streams that flow through a number of the woodlands add a further habitat for invertebrates, being a home for fresh water shrimps, water beetles, caddis fly, stonefly and mayfly.
The River Dearne at Cliffe Wood
The River Dearne, which flows past Cliffe Wood, was at one time one of region's most polluted rivers, but now supports brown trout.


Reptiles, Fish & Amphibians
A number of amphibians, fish and reptiles have been recorded from one or two of the sites. For example, the Treeton Marsh area of Hail Mary Hill Wood supports Grass Snake, Three-spined and Ten-spined Sticklebacks, Smooth Newt and Common Frog. The pools and small lakes close to the southern edge of Cliffe Wood contain Carp, Perch, Bream and Tench. The River Dearne, which forms part of the southern boundary of this woodland and which was at one time one of the most polluted rivers in the
region, now supports Brown Trout.


Rowan berries
The berries of the Rowan or Mountain Ash, though poisonous to humans, are an important food source for birds.
The range of birds recorded in the Heritage Woodlands is especially wide for an urban area and includes a number of species that are relatively uncommon or declining in numbers. As for invertebrates, the range of birds found on a site reflects the mix of habitats found. The greatest variety of bird species tends to be in woodlands with wet areas, in those with abundant mature trees for hole-nesting birds, and in those with a well-developed shrub layer.

Birds which favour areas of more mature woodland include Blackcap, Sparrowhawk, Jay, Treecreeper and Tawny Owl. Standing deadwood provides nesting sites for Green Woodpecker, Greater-spotted Woodpecker, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Nuthatch.

In contrast, species such as Wren, Chiffchaff, Turtle Dove, Song Thrush, Linnet, Grey Partridge. Chaffinch, Lesser Whitethroat, Yellowhammer and Kestrel prefer woodland edges and clearings, as well as adjacent hedgerows, open ground and areas of scrub. At some of the more urban sites, many of these birds supplement their food supply from adjoining residential areas. These more open areas are also important for feeding Jays and Magpies and as a venue for Woodcocks to perform their distinctive display flight, known as roding.

A number of the Heritage Woodlands contain marsh and streamside areas and associated with these are Woodcock, Willow Tit, Reed Warbler and Willow Warbler.

Other species known to breed in the woodlands include Robin, Blackbird and Mistle Thrush. The woods also support a wide range of breeding Tit Species including Long- tailed Tit and Coal Tit. Finches breeding in the woodlands include Greenfinch, and at least one pair of Hawfinches is known to have nested in Woolley Wood in the past. Another species thought to breed here is the elusive Lesser-spotted Woodpecker.

Summer visitors to the woodlands include Cuckoo, Spotted Flycatcher and a variety of warblers including Chiffchaff, Garden Warbler and Whitethroat.

In winter, the Heritage Woodlands provide a feeding ground for a wide variety of birds. Siskins, Redpolls, Bullfinches, Greenfinches, Waxwings, Goldcrests, Long-tailed Tits, Chaffinches, Bramblings, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds occur in greater numbers than in the Summer, being joined by the winter visitors, Fieldfare and Redwing. Woolley Wood is an important autumn/winter feeding ground for Hawfinch.

Blackberries are an important autumn food source for a wide variety of mammals, birds and invertebrates.
A wide variety of mammals have been recorded from the Heritage Woodlands. Not surprisingly, the best woodlands for mammals tend to be those some distance from built-up areas.

Smaller mammals found in the woodlands include Pigmy and Common Shrews, Field and Bank Voles and Wood Mouse, with Harvest Mouse, Water Vole and Water Shrew having been recorded from Treeton Marsh in Hail Mary Hill Wood. Fox is present at many of the sites and badgers have long lived in some. The Grey Squirrel is the only mammal that you can be certain to spot on any visit to any of the woods! Some of the woodlands support Hedgehog, Mole, Stoat, Weasel, Rabbit and Brown Hare. A number of the woodlands are feeding areas for Noctule, Leislers and, most frequently, Pipistrelle bats.

Red Deer have been known to use Wheata Wood and Prior Royd, these being the remnants of a herd originally established in Wharncliffe Chase and released in the 1940s. Badger was present in a number of the woodlands until the 1960's but is now either rare or extinct in most of the woods, probably as a result of a combination of persecution and disturbance.

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