by Adrian Lawson
As you explore these woodlands you can, if you look, see a number of different types of tree, and it is not just different species either, they also differ in the way they are or have been managed.
Woodland is a scarce habitat, old woodland even more so. The wooded Ridge of Tilehurst is a dominant feature of the western skyline of the town. Much of it has been managed to provide wood for use. Stop and think about how important wood was before the industrial revolution, and especially what was used to fire the clay for bricks and tiles that were made locally. All that wood was grown in nearby woods. Mostly coppice products were used which is why many woods are called Copse, so named because they had been cut. The miracle was that they regrew of their own accord, cut trees sending out new shoots, new seedlings germinating in the light immediately after cutting.
You can see this in the shape of many of the trees, even quite large old trees, that have as many as 3,4,5, or 6 stems. Other parts of the woods have not been woods for very long, some were grassy fields this century, some even in living memory. Seed has blown in or been dropped by birds or has fallen from old trees in the woods nearby. These secondary woods are often characterised by lots of trees of similar size and with 2 or 3 types of tree, often Birch Ash Pussy Willow and Hawthorn. Occasionally you may find one or two very large trees in these new woods. These may have been large specimen trees growing in the field, or if they are with coppiced trees they would have been grown as "standards" to provide the large and more valuable timbers. In the last century plantations became common, sometimes with oaks and other native trees, but occasionally with trees from Europe and America. Here you will find that all the trees are the same age size height and type, although after a hundred years of growth, and the occasional loss of some individuals other trees may have come in since of their own accord. Look for Beeches, Limes and Oaks.
All these types of woodland can be found on the walk. There is a lot more to a woodland than a load of trees!