HISTORY: The woodland can be dated back several centuries. Copper and tin mining throughout the 19th century was followed in the 20th with silver fox farming, bread for their pelts made famous by numerous Hollywood stars of the 1920’s and 30’s. The Trees were coppiced for the tanning industry, providing colouring for leather used for horse saddles and other wears. On acquiring the land in 1976, the Miller family’s first task was to remove all of the large, unsightly industrial units used for Battery chicken farming that had been established in the previous decade. In recent years the woodland has undergone the first stages of a return to ancient woodland status; the eradication of rhododendron and the thinning process of the trees (predominantly Oak), in order to help establish new growth on the woodland floor, whilst keeping the same level of overall canopy cover. This has been done under the guiding eye of the Forestry Commission and local woodland managers.
A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF COTTON WOOD: After the snow drops and wild daffodils bade us farewell, (and hopefully the worst of winter), March brings with it a healthy ground covering of Ransom (Wild Garlic), on the lower woodland and riverside, whilst on the upper slopes we start to see evidence of the first Bluebell growth, leaving us wondering whether they will flower in time for Easter or will we have to wait until May day to see them at their best? Bluebells get over taken by Pink Champions and the Ransom flower heads provide a sea of white down on the banks of the Ruthern by mid May. The smaller Beech and Hazel come out in leaf providing a vivid welcome to early summer before the remaining broadleaf tree catch up a few weeks later. By the summer solstice we can expect to see a vibrant combination of rich colours as ferns and wild grasses join the party.
Beautiful wild daffodils in the woods
NATURE: If you really want to find solitude, we can be confident and say that when you visit Cotton Wood you will only have to share the Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) status woodland with a few of the locals.
These may come in the form of a family of roe deer heading up to the higher woodland after a night out on the forested area of Great Grogley Downs, or the darting glimpse of a kingfisher looking to catch out an unsuspecting ‘brownie’, or the dog otter going for a larger salmon or sea trout whilst out on his morning patrol.
Another daily occurrence is the almost Jurassic appearance of the Heron heading to his perch on the bank of the higher pond on the upper level. If you want a bit of action, then look out for the dog-fighting buzzards from the peninsula view, as they attempt to see off competition for the best territory in the valley.
Night life is punctuated with the occasion hoot of the tawny owls. You can have a conversation with them, (honestly, try it out and perfect your own hoot, they will respond by getting closer to you until they realise they’ve been bluffed by a human!) Come the summer months and the hour of ‘dimpsey’ light brings with it a multitude of bats flying low above the river at the ‘Elbow’.Take a seat and enjoy the air display. This might be an opportune moment to look out for the lesser known angler that on occasion walk the beat up river, casting as they go, but never stopping for too long, as this is proper sport fishing. The fish never give themselves away as they pass on through to spawining grounds further up river.