Blackwater Valley Countryside

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Historically the Valley had few woodlands. Just one area of ancient woodland does lie adjacent to the river, Rowhill Copse, within which a spring forms the source of the River Blackwater. Even this copse has seen much human intervention.

Rowhill CopseOther mature and ancient woodlands are found on Finchampstead Ridges, the higher ground forming the northern edge of the Valley's lower reaches.

Rowhill Copse

This has areas of:

  • Ash and Hazel coppice
  • Stands of mature Oak
  • Alder
  • Birch
  • Pine (in one part)

Rhododendron has been introduced and is now a problem to constrain. Where Rhododendron does not occur the woodland floor has a wide variety of plants such as:

  • Wood AnemoneDog’s Mercury
  • Bluebell
  • Violet
  • Celandine
  • Wood Spurge
  • Wood Anemone

Roe Deer are numerous as are woodland birds:

  • Robins, Blackbirds and Blue Tits are abundant
  • Great Spotted Woodpeckers breed as does a Sparrowhawk

Woodland butterflies include Speckled Wood and Purple Hairstreak.

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Valley floor

The Valley floor probably now contains more trees than for many centuries, as woodland has become established, either by natural regeneration, by planting around old gravel pits, or as screening to modern urban developments.

This new woodland can support many common species but unfortunately the rich variety characteristic of ancient woodlands will take many more years to develop.

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Blackthorn BlossomAncient hedgerows do survive in the Valley as hedges often have been preserved during gravel extraction with sites confined by the old field boundaries. Old hedgerows contain a wide variety of species:

  • Holly
  • Blackthorn
  • Ash
  • Alder
  • Oak

A number of old hedges are dominated by suckering Elm. Trees killed by Dutch elm disease send up shoots from stumps but the regrowth dies back after a few years and establishes a natural coppicing cycle.

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Specimen & veteran trees

Because of the low numbers of trees historically in the Valley, specimen and veteran trees are few and far between. A few old pollarded Oaks were a feature of the riverbank but unfortunately most of these have been lost recently.

Fine specimens of Black and White Poplars can be found in the hedges of Shepherd Meadows.