On the Edge of the Wood
You are at the woodland edge, the border between the dark forest and the open countryside. Just before you leave the wood you will notice an engraved limestone pillar. This marks the way to McCartney’s Oak about 200 metres to the south, the largest and oldest tree on the reserve. McCartney was reputed to be a travelling tin smith who could read and write, when most could not. He spent the winter as a guest in houses or outhouses locally and during the summer he made his home within the woods next to the large Oak. It is not known exactly when McCartney lived within the area but local research suggests that this was most likely to be in the second half of the 19th century. The fringe habitat on the edge of the woodland is critically important in ecological terms to many of our bird, insects and mammals, especially bats. On warm summer evenings this area is alive with bats feeding on the many flies that drift on the wing along the woodland. As night gives way to day, the bats will be replaced by swallows, martins and swifts who continue to feed on the flies during daylight hours. By taking separate shifts bats and birds can feed on the same food sources, but do not directly compete. The area of shrubs, briars and rank grasses was once a bog land area, but draining of local streams has reduced the water level and allowed other non-wet loving plants to encroach.