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Welwyn Garden City
Author: not credited
Published: 1964 by the Welwyn Garden City Development Corporation
Format: Paperback 8¾" by 5½" with 7 pages plus map
Welwyn Garden City
THE WELWYN GARDEN CITY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
and printed by
PAYNE THE PRINTER (HATFIELD) LTD
The Wood Wardens
To assist the Corporation a number of keen and interested local residents have voluntarily undertaken to act as Wardens of the woods and they carry the Development Corporation's authority to prevent abuses. They will report to the Corporation, for whatever action it sees fit to take, any person or persons refusing to comply with their requests that the rules laid down for or use of the woods, should be complied with.
The Development Corporation gratefully acknowledges its gratitude to the residents who so zealously perform these duties as Wood Wardens, and to Mr. W. R. Hughes, M.A., the author of "A Hertfordshire Wood",* a booklet which inspired this publication.
* 33 pp. illustrated, published locally 1936. A copy may be seen in the local Library.
Click here to view Mr Hughes's book
Sherrards Park Wood
In the North West corner of Welwyn Garden City is Sherrards Park Wood, nearly 180 acres of natural woodland preserved, as far as is possible, in its natural state for the recreation and enjoyment of the citizens of this town. It is felt, however, that many people living in the town do not know of the existence of this wood, where it is, or how to get there, and that others, who already know of it, may wish to learn more about it. Still others, who already use these woods, do so without realising what an important and valuable amenity they are and too often, through lack of knowledge, do damage to trees, plants or wild life which is sometimes irreparable. For these reasons this small pamphlet has been produced, so that the widest range of people in the town may know of and fully appreciate this natural asset.
Woods do not often have a recorded history, but there is the evidence of flint implements that people were living where these woods now stand perhaps 4,000 years ago. The woods are mentioned in the Domesday Book as part of the woodlands of the Digswell Manor and there is recorded reference to them again in documents dated 1285. Certain parts of the wood bear different names, many of which establish the fact that they were planted at different times. Some of the names such as Temple Wood and Monks Walk lead one to look for ruins of a temple or monastery, but there is no evidence that these ever existed and the names are probably merely fanciful.
The branch railway from Welwyn Garden City to Luton passes the Southern boundary of the woods and isolates the section known as Brocks Wood. Its isolation makes it suitably secluded for birds and bird lovers favour it for their observations.
In 1920, Sherrards Park Wood formed part of the land acquired by the late Sir Ebenezer Howard for the building of Welwyn Garden City, and from the earliest days it has been the town's major open space and its unique natural amenity. In the thirties and at the end of the war, there was great opposition to, and controversy about, the building into the woodland area which the Garden City Company was undertaking. The Development Corporation, when it took over, considered the case put forward by the "Save the Woods" Committee, and decided that its master plan should preserve these woods for public enjoyment, apart from some tidying up and rounding off of the development begun by the Company.
The dominant trees in the wood are Durmast oaks, one of the two types of British oak which vie with each other for the title of original "old British oak". Beneath the oaks the second typical tree found is the hornbeam with leaves like a non-glossy beech and a trunk of noticeably irregular section. The hornbeam is one of the closest and hardest of British woods. This association of hornbeam and oak is almost unique, occurring in very few other parts of the United Kingdom and so is, botanically, of considerable interest.
Sections of the woods comprise conifer plantations, mainly larch with a mixture of Scots pine and Corsican pine. There is also a good deal of mixed woodland containing all the common British trees. Most frequent are silver birch, with ash, sycamore, and hawthorn. Beech trees are rare, but several good specimens exist and the wild cherry trees, though not numerous, are good and a fine sight in spring. Other trees to be found include maple, holly, mountain ash, elm, wych elm, Spanish chestnut, hazel, elder, guelder rose and blackthorn. Two large areas are covered with the alien rhododendron.
As in any wood left in its natural state, there is a profusion of growth under the trees. Some areas are bare, many are covered by bracken and bramble amongst which can be found much honeysuckle. Dogs mercury and lesser celandine are found in profusion, with some moschatel here and there.
Lilies of the valley, which used to grow in the centre of the wood, have now vanished, but foxgloves, white violets and primroses are still found, though not in large numbers. Many other plants, so common as to be almost unnoticed, grow vigorously and, for those who are interested, the wood pimpernel. the rose-bay willow-herb, the mulleins, St. John's Wort, bugle, violet, woodruff and speedwell can be found. Other wild plants used to abound but have now disappeared, due to indiscriminate digging up of the plants.
The tales of these woods indicate that they were at one time a home of badgers though it is doubtful if they can be still found there. There are recorded instances of foxes having their earths there in the early days of the Garden City. More usual now are the rabbits and occasionally their enemies the weasel or stoat. Smaller fry such as shrews and mice, voles and moles are there in plenty, as is the grey squirrel. The grey squirrel is alleged to have killed off the native red squirrel and also to destroy birds' eggs and young. Not often seen, but present in numbers is the hedgehog, which will usually be seen hunting in the evening if one waits for him.
With its variety of trees, shrubs and undergrowth the wood is a great place for birds. Unlike the beasts, the birds can be heard and a walk through the woods will record, for the knowledgeable, many different bird notes. Most blatant of the birds is the jay - noisy and gay-coloured, he does damage to gardens and to the eggs and young of other birds. Common also are the nuthatch and the tree creeper. Tawny owls and little owls and the green and spotted woodpeckers are also identified. The summer migrants to the woods include the willow warbler, chiff chaff, blackcap, garden warbler, cuckoo, whitethroat, turtle dove, tree pipit and fly-catcher. Nightingales, night-jars and wood wrens have been known to make the wood their home, and familiar and numerous are the blackbirds, thrushes, robins, wrens and dunnocks, together with the army of tits and the finches - chaffinch, greenfinch, bullfinch and goldfinch.
If Sherrards Park Wood is to continue as woodland in perpetuity, it must not only be used by the public with discretion but also be properly looked after by its owners. All too easily years of tree growth can be completely destroyed in a few moments by thoughtless children and adults without realising the full significance of what they are doing. Clearly it is desirable to foster a love and respect for trees and natural things, particularly among young people.
The easiest way to maintain a wood is by natural regeneration; that is by ensuring that sufficient young trees are growing to take the place of the large ones which naturally form the over head canopy. If this becomes too dense the young trees beneath cannot grow. On the other hand if the canopy is too thin the young trees become choked by the ground cover. The ideal is, therefore, to maintain a balanced growth in all the several layers of vegetation. Natural regeneration of woodland interferes less with the public use of the area than when an area has to be cleared and replanted because of neglect, as was the case with an area recently overrun by rhododendrons. As some 50 acres of the woods had been clear felled during the wars these areas are still in need of careful management to nurse back dominant trees so that future generations may also enjoy the beauty that is ours at present.
It is equally all too easy for the owners to forget that trees are not ageless and that masterly inactivity, usually taken as a cover-up for deficiency in knowledge of a subject, can assuredly bring about their destruction.
In order to achieve the preservation of the woods some rules are necessary to regulate the behaviour of people who use them. These rules, laid out below, are simple and quite easy to abide by without spoiling anyone's enjoyment.
Map of Sherrards Wood
The booklet states: The map is reproduced from the Ordnance Survey map with the sanction of the Controller of H. M. Stationery Office. Crown Copyright reserved.
The map is a fold-out one and is pasted in the back cover of the booklet. It is 16" vertically by 15" horizontally. There is something funny about the way the map was printed. The left and top of the frame are not quite at 90 degrees, but have been drawn parallel to the map grid. The reason may be that the O.S. map on which it was based had slightly curved grid lines due to the map projection used. The edge of the paper has been cut to disguise the curvature.
For another map of the woods click here.