Country diary: ancient woodland, still surviving

Wakerley Great Wood, Northamptonshire: The song may have changed but the principle remains – wildlife can thrive after mineral extraction


Clear winter skies make for a frosty but brilliantly sunny morning; the low slanting light is soaked up by the conifer stands, but lances through the high ash forest.

Wakerley Great Wood is a substantial mixed plantation and woodland, managed by Forestry England. It is less renowned than the similarly sized, nearby Fineshade or Fermlyn Woods: probably because it does not match their depth of richness in wildlife. It is, however, popular with mud-speckled cyclists, who become increasingly frequent as the morning defrosts. A network of paths span the wood and a dedicated mountain biking trail weaves between conifer trunks, up and down the slopes, including some reasonably exhilarating banked s- and hairpin bends.

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