Local Wildlife Site grassland on Heart of England Forest land in Ab Lench

Continuing the Heart of England Forest’s programme of land acquisition to extend the Forest, the latest addition is 115 acres at Ab Lench in Worcestershire. Nestled in a landscape of mature woodland and pasture with views of the Malvern Hills, Ab Lench is just a stone’s throw away from our land at Sheriffs Lench.

 

Views of the Malvern Hills from our land at Ab Lench

 

 

Steeped in history

The name Ab Lench comes from a shortened form of Abbot’s Lench, although history shows no evidence that the land ever belonged to an Abbot! Meanwhile, the word ‘lench’ relates to a ridge of land and derives from the old English word ‘hlinc’, meaning ‘ridge’. The land is host to a mediaeval settlement and includes the site of a chapel, both of which have been identified from well-preserved earthworks.

Managing the landscape

Within the new acquisition are two fields with ‘ridge and furrow’ earthworks, the remains of mediaeval field systems, which are of archaeological interest. These will be left free of planting to maintain their status.

One of these fields is also of botanical interest with 72 different plant species having been recorded, and as a result it is designated as a Local Wildlife Site. This designation in 2003 followed an on-site botanical survey and the use of scientifically-determined criteria to determine its status. This ridge and furrow pasture lies on gently sloped ground. A small stream lined with hawthorn scrub and trees, including some pollarded willows, runs along the western boundary.

Mature pollarded willow

 

 

The species-rich grassland, with prominent anthills throughout, is in part neutral with crested-dog’s tail and common knapweed and in part more calcareous (where the soils are chalk or limestone-based) with upright brome grass present. Other species of interest are spiny restharrow, pepper saxifrage, quaking grass and devil’s-bit scabious. Requiring careful management through grazing, cutting or a combination of both, species-rich grassland can provide a home to a range of wildlife and wildflowers.

Local Wildlife Sites, such as this, act as stepping stones within the landscape, providing corridors for wildlife to move and colonise new areas. With calcareous grassland found on Heart of England Forest land at nearby Sheriffs Lench we are adding to the protection of these ‘stepping stones’, and through creating new woodland on adjacent fields we are contributing greatly to expanding important ecological networks.

Planting more natives

The area of Ab Lench allocated for expanding the Forest will see up to 27 different native broadleaf tree species planted on previously arable fields. In total we plan to plant 37,000 trees across 100 acres during autumn / winter 2018-2019. Head Forester Stephen Coffey says, “the addition of this land will strengthen the diverse habitats of the area with woodland and calcareous grassland the main features. Together, this proposed woodland creation, along with our land at Sheriffs Lench, and other woodland at Wood Norton and Bishampton Bank, form a significant continuous wildlife corridor of woodland and grassland from the banks of the River Avon deep into the Lenches.”

If you would like to get involved in helping to expand the Forest then please email volunteer@hoef.co.uk. We’d love to hear from you.

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