Copyright © All rights reserved. Blofield & District Conservation Group
Size: 0.5 ha (1.3 acres).
Owned by: Blofield & District Conservation Group. Acquired from NWTsummer 2000.
Access & Parking: Access by prior arrangement or during BADCOG work-parties. A public footpath runs along the eastern boundary, just inside the wood. If visiting by car, please do not park on Long Lane which is narrow and often busy. Park in Strumpshaw village or on Cuckoo Lane where care should be taken to avoid inconvenience to other countryside users.
Habitat: Broad-leaved semi-natural woodland.
Main conservation interest: Woodland flora.
Conservation status: None.
Management: Managed by BADCOG since 1994.
Location: The aptly named Railway Wood, between Brundall and Strumpshaw, is adjacent to the Norwich-Great Yarmouth rail line.
How to get there: Via the public footpath running between Cuckoo Lane (grid ref. TG 341081) and Long Lane (TG 347077). The footpath runs inside the wood's eastern boundary and crosses the rail line. Please take care when crossing the line. From either direction, the footpath crosses arable fields, so please stay on the path until you reach the wood.
Railway Wood, formerly owned by British Rail, is on the site of an old borrow pit from which earth was taken for use in the construction of the railway at Braydeston in the early 1880's. Prior to this, the site was enclosed farmland, and the railway was built along an existing field hedge-line. Today, the wood is surrounded on all sides by agricultural land, with the railway line forming its northern boundary. Within the immediate locality, the line is bordered by scrub; predominantly oak, hawthorn and blackthorn. This provides a useful buffer for the reserve and serves as a 'corridor' for mobile animals including birds, mammals and insects.
The wood has a northerly aspect and is quite shaded, particularly during late autumn and winter when the sun remains low. The steep, sloping edge of the old pit along the southern boundary lends character to the wood. Oak, hawthorn and elder predominate, while a blackthorn thicket, silver birch, grey poplar, sallow, holly, ash, wild cherry and a Swedish whitebeam add diversity to this small reserve. Several large oaks dominate the wood's eastern end, with an understorey of hawthorns. Some of these are clothed in vigorous, climbing ivy which is valuable as a late source of nectar and shelter for small animals. The site's ground flora is impoverished, particularly at the eastern end of the wood. There are however, areas where the ground flora becomes richer, with conspicuous patches of ground-ivy and primrose.
Other flowering plants of interest include bugle, common twayblade, common valerian and common dog-violet. The old hedgeline along which the railway was constructed may have been the original source of the primroses; or perhaps they were intentionally planted along with some of the trees ?
The long term management aim is to enhance the wood's floristic interest while retaining the site's present general character. Management will mainly be low-input, undertaken in stages spanning several winter seasons. A large proportion of the wood will be left unmanaged, particularly the blackthorn thickets and the area of even-aged oak, ash and hawthorn at the eastern end. Elder and other shrubs in the area supporting primroses have been coppiced and interplanted with several species including hazel, spindle and field maple. Once established, these will also be coppiced on rotation to mimic the conditions of a coppice-with-standards woodland. Small clumps of silver birch, sallow and grey poplar may also be coppiced in future. At the narrow western end, where the ground flora is dominated by ground-ivy and nettle, elders have been removed to increase the level of light reaching the ground. The objective is to increase the extent of potentially suitable woodland into which a woodland flora may develop. In March 2010 tress and shrubs were planted to an area which had opened up due to the trees and shrubs dying back and damaged tress being removed. The following trees/shrubs were planted:
Mammal and bird sightings include fox, mole, hedgehog, rabbit, sparrowhawk, woodcock, and lesser whitethroat.
When to visit: In May for the primroses which flower later than at most other sites. Adjacent to the reserve, the south-facing railway embankment (opposite the stile) is also floristically interesting (June is a good time to visit), with an abundance of agrimony, perforate St. John's-wort, common cornsalad, wild carrot and wild strawberry. Nearby Long Lane RNR is well worth visiting.
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Below: Jan 2011, new gate to wood. Below: Work Party Jan 2012