Greno woodland wildlife

Crossbill, photo by Stefan JohanssonCrossbill, photo by Stefan Johansson

With its woodland wildflowers, squabbling jays, secretive deer and busy wood ants, Greno Woods offers a grand day out for wildlife lovers.

 

 

Lying on the northern fringe of Sheffield, Greno Woods, together with the adjacent Wharncliffe and Wheata Woods, forms an attractive matrix of woodland, heathland and ancient field systems. Taken together, they cover an area of 700 hectares, making them the largest area of woodland with high biodiversity value in Yorkshire. Small wonder then, that so many wild animals and plants are found here.

Precious Plants
Common cow wheat photo by Philip PrecyAs the name suggests, Greno is largely a woodland reserve, although an area of heathland is present at its heart. A great many tree species are found here, from ancient oak coppice stools to Victorian beech, to young sweet chestnut coppice and areas of conifer plantation. There has been woodland at Greno since before 1600 and many of the wildflowers found here are particularly associated with ancient woodlands. Look in spring and find sweet honeysuckle, bluebells, ramsons and greater stitchwort along the Trans Pennine Trail or along streamsides in Low Hall Wood.

Common cow wheat is another Greno specialty. This delicate looking plant brightens up the edges of paths with deep golden flowers in the summer. It is a hemi-parasite (meaning it gets some of its food from the roots of other plants) and has a fascinating relationship with the reserve’s hairy wood ants. The cow wheat flowers produce a sugary liquid from tiny glands below the petals that the ants are attracted to and feed on. Meanwhile its seeds contain a special oily structure delicious to the ants who carry them away to their nests, so spreading the plant across the woodland.

 

Wonderful Wildlife
Elliot Neep grey squirrelWildlife is plentiful at Greno and whatever the season there is always plenty to spot. Walk the bridleway network in spring and summer and you will see the ride sides buzzing with insect life. Comma, peacock, red admiral and brimstone butterflies make a colourful show, whilst male speckled wood duel for sun spots under the woodland canopy. Look out for the hairy wood ants nests in sunny areas. These amazing structures are a marvel of insect construction. The material in the thatched ‘roof’ of a nest acts like an umbrella when it rains and like a solar panel in good weather, intercepting the sun’s rays and heating the nest above the temperature of the surrounding woodland. Also in sunny spots, look out for basking common lizard, particularly in the area surrounding the heath.

Greno Woods offers great bird watching opportunities. Bands of jays, great spotted woodpecker and wood pigeon are all easily spotted overhead, whilst shyer species such as woodcock and bullfinch lurk in the undergrowth. As summer approaches, the woods burst with birdsong - you may hear chiffchaffs, willow warblers and blackcaps as well as the more familiar calls of robins and chaffinches. In winter, visitors such as crossbill compete with squabbling flocks of coal tit, or grey squirrels, for pine nuts.

Other than the ubiquitous grey squirrel, Greno’s mammals are retiring and rarely seen. If you visit at dawn or dusk, you may be lucky enough to get a glimpse of fox or badger, a roe deer feeding in a woodland glade or brown hares in the fields at the woodland edge.

Photo Credits: SRWT is indebted to the following photographers for the use of their images: Green Woodpecker – Amy Lewis, Large white butterfly on bluebells – Richard Bowler, Grey Squirrel – Elliot Neep, Common Cow-wheat – Philip Precy, Crossbill – Stefan Johansson.