Your spotter's guide to the forest - The Heart of England Forest

Your spotters guide

Things to find in the forest


We’re creating a native broadleaf forest, so most of our large-scale planting focuses on trees like oak, lime and birch. But you can see other species too, such as wild cherry, field maple, wild pear, willow, hornbeam, black poplar, sweet chestnut, hazel, guelder rose, holly, privet… the list is endless.

Here’s a guide to just some of the different things you can spot as you stroll.



Oak woodlands are one of the UK’s most diverse habitats, providing home to hundreds of species of insects, birds, mammals, mosses and fungi. And they’re full of acorns!


One of the latest trees to come into leaf in spring, but when it does, it’s very distinctive with up to nine smaller leaflets making up each leaf.


Both small- and large-leaved limes are growing in the forest. The leaf buds are red and look like boxing gloves.


Birch has an easily recognisable bark – grey, white or silver, it can appear to peel away like paper.

Sweet chestnut

An ‘honorary native’, introduced by the Romans, with very long oblong leaves. In old age, it can become hollow – the perfect woodland den.

Wild cherry

Maybe the prettiest of the broadleaf trees, the shiny bark is a deep red-brown and the leaves fade to a rich orange and crimson in autumn.

Field maple

The UK’s only native maple grows in woodland and hedgerows with small yellow-green, cup-shaped flowers that hang in clusters.


A small deciduous tree, more like a shrub, with dark green leaves and creamy-white flowers. The fruit is small and orange – and often mistakenly called a berry.


The catkins of hazel are one of the first signs of spring – they grow early, so the tree can send its pollen on the wind before leaves appear to block its path.



They might look cuddly, but they are the enemy of the sapling! If you don’t spot a squirrel, you’ll definitely find the damage they’ve caused as they chew away at young trees.


Badgers are shy and elusive – you’re more likely to spot one of their trails. Badgers follow ancient routes passed down through generations, so look for well-worn paths emerging from setts.


The forest has seen a fantastic increase in the number of nesting pairs, so you might be lucky enough to spot one hovering patiently watching for dinner.


Deer are kept out of certain areas of the forest by high fencing, to prevent damage to young saplings – but you can often spot large herds roaming the surrounding countryside.


An important part of the diet of predators such as kestrels and owls, they spend most of their time in runs and burrows, so you’ll have to be very patient to tick this spot-box. Read our fact file.


Without doubt one of the cutest of our small mammals, the tiny and elusive dormouse is sadly now an endangered species in our woodlands. A new community was released in Alne Wood in 2012 to help with the conservation of the species.


Bats are a good indicator of the health of the environment – a healthy population means a healthy natural environment, which is why they love the Forest! 13 of the 18 UK species can be found here. Read our fact file.

Mini beasts

There are literally hundreds of species of insects living in the woodland – go on a mini-beast hunt and look out for dragonflies, ants, snails, earwigs, woodlice, grasshoppers, stag beetles, spiders and loads more.


Hedgehog numbers are in decline in the UK, but they can find a welcome sanctuary here in the Forest. Find out more about these well-loved mammals. Read our fact file.

The Heart of England Forest