- Visit in spring to see the early flowering cowslips which cover the steep limestone banks.
- The reserve is undoubtedly looking at its finest in summer – aromatic purple wild thyme and yellow rockrose cover the grasslands, butterflies are abundant and the woods along the valley are in full leaf.
A reserve for all seasons
The reserve is a diverse site of broadleaf woodland, scrub and grassland. The shallow, limestone rich soils support a wide range of plants and over 240 species have been recorded. The spring flowering cowslips and violets are followed later in the year by several species of orchids, small scabious, ladies mantle and the aromatic salad burnet. The old spoil heaps are home to a number of uncommon species and are covered with wild thyme and the delicate white flowers of limestone bedstraw in mid-summer.
The ancient woodland is dominated by ash, oak, hazel and field maple. Both species of lime tree are present, indicating the antiquity of the woodland. Look at the ground and you'll find dog's mercury, primroses, violets and wood avens and plenty of ferns including hard shield fern, hart's-tongue fern and the delicate maidenhair spleenwort.
Creating a buzz
The reserve is also rich in insects and over 150 species have been recorded so far, including bees, butterflies and beetles. Visit on a warm, sunny day and look out for small black 'butterflies' – these chimney sweepers are in fact day flying moths! The old mine workings in the area now provide a home for bats and five different species have been known to over-winter at Castern.
Battle of the bramble!
Management at Castern Wood aims to maintain a balance between the woodland, grassland and scrub communities. Without management the grassland areas will scrub over and gradually return to woodland – you can see this process of 'succession' occurring throughout the grassland areas at Castern where we haven't quite got the grazing levels right yet!
We hope to maintain the grasslands and keep the scrub in check through grazing - however the small size and relative inaccessibility of the grazing areas limits the site's appeal for stock owners. In the absence of a suitable grazing regime we are currently dependant upon volunteer teams who help us to manually cut the invading bramble and scrub on an annual basis