Welcome to the National Trust on Wenlock Edge

A wooded limestone ridge of high bio-diversity, interspersed with species rich grassland

Wednesday, 31 December 2014


There are lots of volunteering opportunities at Wenlock Edge and as a volunteer you could get involved with engagement, practical conservation, wildlife surveying and more. We will be at priory hall in Much Wenlock on Tuesday the 20th January from 5pm till 7:30pm to recruit volunteers and to answer questions about volunteering. So if you want to find out how you can help look after and promote Wenlock Edge then please come along and see how you can get involved.

Thinning and Wenlock Edge - a Summary

Thinning is a means of manipulating the development of woodlands or plantations, either for quality or quantity of trees. Conifers is usually quantity, broadleaves is usually quality. Traditionally the primary aim is to remove a proportion of the growing/competing trees to concentrate the growth of volume (not height) of the remainder.

Thinning may be selective, where the poorest quality trees are cut to free space for better trees, which are usually the biggest and healthiest anyway, and have the best form. The trees taken might be supressed, diseased, twisted, forked, damaged or leaning. Otherwise, thinning may be systematic, where trees are removed according to a plan devised in advance. This is easier and cheaper but has less control of quality. Thinning can also be used to favour different species, provide an income or increase light to the forest floor, increasing biodiversity. Timing of thinning is also important; leaving the crop too open can result in stress, sun scorch and increase the risk of wind damage, uprooting, snapping or breaking. Thinning too late will result in spindly stems and supressed growth, and could result in inappropriate species dominating.

Conventional forestry thinking was always to produce the most profitable crop but recent woodland management priorities may mean that benefits to nature, conservation and recreation have changed thinning policies. At Wenlock, all the managed woodland was acquired pre-planted or in mid rotation, so all the work has been playing the hand that we bought. All Wenlock thinnings are selective and look to create a balance of some veteran trees, log production, cordwood production, natural regeneration, deadwood, open areas and a healthy understorey. A mix of heights and ages is also desirable. Thinning allows for a gradual transition to this end objective, while retaining woodland cover and avoiding the large visual impact of clear felling and replanting.

Thinning policy has generally been to favour native broadleaves and there has been a general presumption against “exotics” and heavy shade bearers (sitka spruce, norway spruce, western red cedar), particularly on ancient woodland sites. Japanese larch, has not been so much of a problem, until the arrival in the UK of Phytophthora Ramorum (fatal disease). At Wenlock some plantation conifers were unsuited to the site or were poorly maintained allowing local seed bank tree species to take over, producing mixed woodland. With the increasing threats to woodland (disease, climate change) maintaining this diversity is one way of “future proofing” Wenlock woods. However, with the new demand for woodfuel, and the unknown impact of ash die back pending, the rationale behind thinning is constantly evolving.

Thinning at Wenlock is very much a balancing act where priorities often carry different weighting depending on the site, the potential and the practicality. The woods have been actively managed for hundreds of years by patrons who believed their prescriptions were the best – now in the twenty first century we know best – don’t we?

By Alistair Heath (Area Ranger at Wenlock Edge)

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Nibbled nuts

Walking through the woods you are very likely to see hazelnuts on the floor, in the leaf litter and at the base of Hazel coppice. Many small mammals rely on hazelnuts to survive and if you look closely you can tell what mammal has eaten it. For example squirrels have strong jaws and can crack the hard outer shell of a hazelnut in half, whereas mice have to nibble a little hole in the shell to get to the kernel inside, as you can see in the picture below. 

When dormice nibble through the shell they use their teeth to scallop a hole and so the edge is very smooth whereas if the edge has lots of scratches on it then it was probably eaten by a wood mouse. Why don't you have a look next time you are at Wenlock and test your mammal detective skills?

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Some helping hands from SSNTV

Me and Al had eleven extra pairs of helpful hands cutting down the small trees and clearing brash on the upper slope in Longville (near Wilderhope) coppice today. This extra help was provided by the SSNTV (Shropshire and Staffordshire National Trust Volunteers) and was very much appreciated. We got a vast area cleared of scrub and small trees and a large amount of brash burnt. We are doing this so that we can access and remove the larger trees easier during thinning works. 

The SSNTV do lots of work at various National Trust properties including Dudmaston and Attingham Park and always impress us with the effort they put in and the good job they do. So thank you to everyone who came along today! 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Fungi season

After such a long dry summer the rain has finally come and in response we are getting flushes of lots of fungi. They come in all shapes, sizes and colours and make beautiful photographs. Here are just a few that we have found on Wenlock Edge. Try and find some yourselves and take a photo.

A young puff ball

Labrinth fungus

Honey fungus

Birch polypore

Shaggy inkcap

What we have been up to

Visitors from the Valley
At Wenlock we work closely with staff at Carding Mill Valley however it is very rare that they get a chance to come over to Wenlock and many people there don’t know what we get up to. Therefore this month me and Al organised an introductory work day for a small group of CMV staff.

Al led a guided tour around the Edge and talked about the management work we do and the habitats and wildlife we have here. Afterwards there was a practical session which involved cutting felled trees into 3 metre lengths and stacking them in piles ready for the forwarder to take them up the slope to the trackside. We were lucky with the weather, everyone got stuck in and we got a good chunk of work done too. Thank you everyone for helping! 

Full time volunteer Rob and Administrator Nicola stacking logs

Post Refurbishment
Some of the posts at Wenlock have been in place for over 16 years and are starting to show their age.  Where the post meets the soil, rot has got into the wood and it is starting to fall apart. Therefore one by one we have been digging them out and replacing them with nice new posts which should last another 16 years. Most recently we have started work on some posts behind Presthope car park. Replacing a post is a much easier job than digging a whole new hole as much of Wenlock has a thin top soil layer and so very quickly you hit solid rock! 

 The Johns installing the new post

A finished post

Update from the Rangers

The edge looks gorgeous at the moment with a host of autumnal colours and misty mornings; brilliant for budding photographers. From the bird hide you can see the seed vanishing by the second as all the birds try to fatten themselves up ready for the harsh winter ahead.


Wenlock Edge has numerous viewpoints which look out across the beautiful rural Shropshire landscape. To allow visitors to enjoy these views the Rangers and volunteers have been busy cutting back tall Hazel trees which have been obstructing the view. No mean feat by anyone’s standards as we have had to crawl up and down the slope through head height brambles. But it was all worth it!

The Johns cutting the Hazel back

A finished viewpoint

Whilst clearing these viewpoints we found an old dormouse nest in the tall brambles; the pictures show the dead leaves they use to cover the outside and how they tightly weave bark together to make their nest. These nests can often be mistaken for a wood mouse nest however dormice often use green leaves inside their nests whereas wood mice always use dead leaves.

The volunteers have been sprucing up the future volunteer mess room. We emptied out everything, scrubbed the floors, walls and sink and began painting the walls. There is still quite a lot of work to do in there but it is amazing how much better it looks after some TLC and a lick of paint. When it’s ready it’ll be a place where our volunteers can gather to chat, make a brew, warm up and put their muddy boots after a hard day’s work. 


Keep scrubbing lads!

When sweeping cobwebs off the wooden bench we discovered lots of beautiful moths. These are herald moths which must have been overwintering in there. To protect them from the further disturbance we would cause by cleaning and painting we gently encouraged the moths onto our hands and relocated them into the log pile in another outbuilding so they could hibernate. We must have rescued around 10 of these attractive moths.