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Ancient Trees in Duncombe Park
23rd April 2017

led by Brian Walker

Species lists below

Ancient oak

On a sunny but cool afternoon 15 of us gathered at the entrance to Waterloo Plantation, an area of woodland belonging to the Duncombe Park estate but managed by the Forestry Commission. Lead by retired Forestry Commision Wildlife Ranger, Brian Walker, we drove along forest tracks to the lower parts of the wood.

In the lower reaches of this plantation woodland are to be found numerous ancient Oak trees (Quercus robur, Quercus pedunculata and hybrids).

After parking the cars we ambled from tree to tree admiring their stature which varied considerably due to varying degrees of decay. Some still had fairly healthy crowns while others were reduced to just a rotting trunk. All had holes or splits, one to the point where the heart wood had decayed completely and a 6ft tall person could stand inside. On some parts of the decaying trunks and at varying heights seedlings had established themselves and so bilberry and young conifers could be seen sprouting. These trees had survived being felled over the centuries as being in estate parkland the lands primary purpose was for hunting. Believed to be 400 to 500 years old they had started to become smothered by planted conifers such as Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) and Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) but in more recent years the value of these ancient trees had become recognised and so the encroaching plantation trees had been felled and the area designated as SSSI. Brian explained trees of this age often harbour specialised and rare insects and fungi that need the decaying wood in which to thrive.

Ancient oak

Returning to the cars and then driving on a mile further we next visited Castle Hill. Here again stood ancient Oaks but also Small-leaved Limes (Tilia cordata), the latter potentially much older than the Oaks due to their habit of readily layering, branches becoming new trunks and creating some interesting shapes.

Ancient lime

Having regrouped back at our starting point we shared some delicious cake before thanking our leader and heading home.

Bird list

Willow Warbler
Blue Tit
Coal Tit
Carrion Crow
Wood Pigeon
Great Tit


Thanks to Pauline for the plant list.

Latin nameCommon name
Ajuga reptansBugle
Alchemilla xanthochloraIntermediate Lady's-mantle
Alliaria petiolataGarlic Mustard
Alopecurus pratensisMeadow Foxtail
Angelica sylvestrisWild Angelica
Arctium agg.Lesser Burdock
Arum maculatumLords-and-Ladies
Bellis perennisDaisy
Blechnum spicantHard-fern
Brachypodium sylvaticumFalse-brome
Carex flaccaGlaucous Sedge
Chamerion angustifoliumRosebay Willowherb
Chrysosplenium oppositifoliumOpposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage
Cirsium arvenseCreeping Thistle
Cirsium palustreMarsh Thistle
Corylus avellanaHazel
Crataegus monogynaHawthorn
Cruciata laevipesCrosswort
Deschampsia caespitosa subsp caespitosaTufted Hair-grass
Digitalis purpureaFoxglove
Dryopteris dilatataBroad Buckler-fern
Dryopteris filix-masMale-fern
Equisetum arvenseField Horsetail
Fagus sylvaticaBeech
Fragaria vescaWild Strawberry
Geranium robertianumHerb-Robert
Geum urbanumWood Avens
Glechoma hederaceaeGround-ivy
Hedera helixIvy
Heracleum sphondyliumHogweed
Hyacinthoides non-scriptaBluebell
Juncus effususSoft-rush
Lathraea squamariaToothwort
Lonicera periclymenumHoneysuckle
Mercurialis perennisDog's Mercury
Myosotis sylvaticaWood Forget-me-not
Oxalis acetosellaWood-sorrel
Plantago lanceolataRibwort Plantain
Plantago majorGreater Plantain
Potentilla anserinaSilverweed
Potentilla reptansCreeping Cinquefoil
Potentilla sterilisBarren Strawberry
Primula vulgarisPrimrose
Prunella vulgarisSelfheal
Prunus spinosaBlackthorn
Pteridium aquilinumBracken
Rubus fruticosus agg.Bramble
Rumex acetosaCommon Sorrel
Scrophularia nodosaCommon Figwort
Senecio jacobeaCommon Ragwort
Stachys sylvaticaHedge Woundwort
Taraxacum officinale agg.Dandelion
Teucrium scorodoniaWood Sage
Tussilago farfaraColt's-foot
Urtica dioicaCommon Nettle
Vaccinium myrtillusBilberry
Veronica arvensisWall Speedwell
Veronica chamaedrysGermander Speedwell
Viola rivinianaCommon Dog-violet


Orange Tip
Small White

Appendix - Molluscs

Notes by Terry Crawford

The woodlands are fairly acidic, but probably contain several species of terrestrial molluscs, especially in damp flushes. More problematic were the extremely dry conditions. The following slugs and snails were recorded.

Arion subfuscus
Cepaea hortensis
Deroceras reticulatum
Lehmannia marginata
Trochulus striolatus
  Dusky Slug
White-lipped Snail
Netted Field Slug
Tree Slug
Strawberry Snail

Most enthusiasts of terrestrial molluscs use scientific names. Vernacular names are difficult as there is no standard list, and confusion can occur. For slugs I have used the preferred vernacular in Rowson, B. et al. (2014) Slugs of Britain and Ireland. AIDGAP Key, FSC Publications/National Museum of Wales. For snails I have taken vernaculars from Kerney, M.J. (1999) Atlas of the Land and Freshwater Molluscs of Britain and Ireland. Harley Books. Here are some comments.

Arion subfuscus was the most common species. This moderately sized slug occurs in a wide range of habitats, is usually some shade of brown, and if the mantle (just behind the head) is gently stroked with a piece of tissue it will turn bright orange-brown. Cepaea hortensis is one of the familiar humbug-like species (the other being Cepaea nemoralis with a brown lip). The shell colour can range from yellow, through pink, to brown, and may show none or up to five dark bands which may be fused to varying degrees. I saw three of these, all yellow, one with no bands, one with five separate bands, and one with fused bands. Deroceras reticulatum is ubiquitous, the small mottled brownish/creamy pest slug of gardens, characterized by production of milky mucous when disturbed. Lehmannia marginata is less common. It is a woodland species that will climb trees in wet conditions. When handled it usually produces copious quantities of very watery mucous. I saw only one, which did not react with mucous production and remained sticky; this is indicative of the extremely dry conditions. Trochulus striolatus is a very common snail occurring in a wide variety of habitats. It is rather flattened, about 10 to 15 mm diameter when adult, with quite coarse striations on the shell and a slight keel around the “shoulder” of the shell. It can be a pest in gardens. It is strangely absent from a large area of the English Midlands.

© Ryedale Natural History Society 2017, Photos © Keith Gittens, Pauline Popely 2017 Back to the Home page