Birches Farm Trail – Bench viewpoint
At this point you can ltake a rest and look back into Crossway field to the south and over towards Wales and on a clear day you can see over to the Black Mountains in the South West.
View west over Great Meadow and Wood Field to the distant hill of Hergest Ridge.
Distant view of the Black Mountains, with the characteristic steep escarpment of Hay Bluff visible above the tree line.
Below how this view may have appeard in the last Ice Age.
Ice Age view
View to the south west around 22,000 years ago, when the area was under a thick ice sheet, so only the tops of the highest hills protrude. Their summits would have been barren wind swept places, with rock fractured by ice. The glaciers ground around their sides, filling the valleys with hundreds of metres thickness of ice. This view is based on an elevation about 100 metres above the level at which you would be located at site viewpoint.
Hummocks all around
The landscape of the area is covered with hummocks and you are currently on top of one of the highest in the area. The landscape can be thought of as like a “basket of eggs”. When the ice had just retreated these individual hills were more prominent but hundreds of years of farming and weather have rounded their edges in Herefordshire creating the smooth gentle shapes you see in the landscape today. (Red line shows the route of the walk).
Descend Little Bank
From the viewpoint descend towards the SW corner of the field. You will soon see a couple of gates in this corner as you descend the slope.
Gate in corner
Descend to the gate in the SW corner of Little Bank.
Go through these two gates into Middle Piece field.
Through Middle Piece
Walk ahead through Middle Piece field, turning sharp right soon.
Note the rising ground to your left, this another glacial hummock.
Through small gate
Leave Middle Piece via the small wooden gate, which may be hidden by vegetation in late summer.
Into Wood Field
Go through the gate into Wood Field.
Through Wood Field
Keeping the hedgerow to your right walk through Wood field towards a large oak tree and a small pedestrian gate.
Oaks are generally regarded as having more associated species of wildlife than any other native trees in England. Oaks in particular host many hundreds of different types of insects and fungi as well as providing habitats for birds, bats and small mammals.
Life in an old oak tree
Throughout the walk around the reserve you will see some fine examples of veteran or ancient oak trees. Veteran trees are at least 150 years old and have features such as rot holes, dead limbs or cracks in their trunks. There are examples of other species of tree veteran tree on the reserve including ash, willow and birch.
There are two species of oak native to the UK, pedunculate oak (Quercus robar) and sessile oak (Quercus petraea), you are likely to see pedunculate oaks here.
Veteran trees of any sort are good for wildlife. The organisms found in these trees range from bacteria to fungi, lichens (fungi in symbiosis with algae), free algae, mosses, vascular plants, invertebrate animals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals.
Image credit: Plantlife and Back from the Brink Project.