While the upper paths remain generally dry in spring and summer, the low-lying main track seems to remain permanently damp, and can be very muddy and treacherous in places in winter. Take extra care in the vicinity of the old quarry in Church Wood. This is partly fenced off, but there are still unguarded near-vertical drops.
Situated on the south-western slopes of the Woolhope Dome, Lea & Pagets Wood is arguably one of the finest ancient, semi-natural, broad-leaved woodlands left in the Wye valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Its ancient status is not in doubt, with the name Lea itself (meaning forest or wood) indicating possible pre-Anglo-Saxon origins and the woodland flora contains a large number of ancient woodland indicator species. Silurian limestone underlies much of the site and the associated soils are medium-heavy, calcareous, and free-draining. Quicklime was manufactured here in the 19th. century, and two lime kilns, possibly dating from 1833, are found near the reserve entrance (more information). A well-marked track runs from the kilns to the disused limestone quarry in Church Wood. In some areas the surface soils have become heavily leached and the base content is much reduced. The valley bottom in Pagets Wood is poorly drained and collects water run-off from the surrounding slopes. In earlier times the wood was much larger, with Pagets Wood extending down to the main B4224 road.
The wood has a complex structure, dominated partly by Sessile Oak and partly by Ash, with other tree species mixed in, particularly Wild Cherry, Yew, Silver Birch and Wild Service. The woodland understorey is mainly composed of Hazel and Field Maple, together with some Hawthorn, Holly, Crab-apple and Spindle, and occasional coppiced Wych Elms. Near the wood boundaries both Large and Small-leaved Limes occur. In some areas, particularly in Pagets Wood, coppiced Sweet Chestnut is abundant as a result of 19th. century plantings. An area of Alders occurs in the north-west section of the reserve, associated with the tufa-depositing stream running in the valley bottom of Pagets Wood. Large and spectacular drifts of Bluebells make a fine show in springtime, mixed in with impressive numbers of ancient woodland indicators like Wood Anemone and Early Purple Orchids. Many other interesting plants indicative of old woods add to the botanical diversity, including Herb Paris, Wild Daffodil, Sanicle, Wild Liquorice and Greater Butterfly Orchid. In 2001 a single frond of the very scarce Moonwort fern was found off the main track in Pagets Wood.
Lea & Pagets is also good for birds, with a small breeding population of Pied Flycatchers in nest-boxes, and a fine range of typical woodland species. These include all three woodpecker species (although Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers have not been recorded for some years) and warblers such as Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and the occasional Wood Warbler. Nuthatches, Treecreepers, Marsh Tits, Jays, Buzzards, Tawny Owls and Sparrowhawks are all frequently seen.
Apart from common species like Green-veined White, Orange Tip, and Speckled Wood, Lea & Pagets is home to a number of less usual butterflies. Brimstones, White Admirals and Wood Whites maintain small populations here, and this is a good place to see the spectacular Silver-washed Fritillary nectar-feeding on brambles.
The wood has an excellent mammal fauna, including
a thriving population of Dormice. Other small
mammals present in some numbers are Wood Mouse,
Yellow-necked Mouse, Bank Vole and Common Shrew.
Foxes and Badgers are also present, while groups
of Fallow Deer are frequently seen. The bat
population is little known, but the recent
installation of bat boxes should help to boost
numbers and allow identification of the various
species present. Recent surveys have revealed
that Lea & Pagets is rich in other taxonomic
groups too. Over 30 species of mollusc have
been recorded, with a typical range of species
inhabiting lime-rich woodland, while a recent fungus survey found 106 different species (including
Myxomycetes and Lichens). In 2002 a survey
of beetles present revealed a rich variety
including four scarce species and the very
rare Agathidium confusum.
The wood has been
managed for centuries as coppice and the Trust
aims to continue this traditional practice. This
should help protect the Dormouse population which
needs regularly coppiced areas for its survival,
and should also encourage the woodland butterflies.
Management has been greatly assisted by Woodland
Grant Schemes from Forest Enterprise. Church
Wood (or Parish Grove) receives minimal management
and is treated as high
forest with no coppicing.
Parts of Pagets Wood have been thinned to allow
in more light and diversify the field
while an area at the far south-eastern end is
designated as a non-intervention or wildwood area for comparison with other sections of the
The freehold of Lea Wood and Pagets Wood was purchased in 1977 with the generous assistance of Mr J.C. Cadbury, and grants from the World Wildlife Fund and the Nature Conservancy Council. The adjoining Church Wood is leased from Fownhope Parochial Church Council at a peppercorn rental.
The wood is designated
as a Site of Special
Scientific Interest by
Natural England in recognition of its importance
Best time to visit
|All times of year.|
|Ancient semi-natural broad-leaved woodland.|
|10.9 hectares (27 acres).|
|Herb Paris (5-6), Bluebell (4-6), Greater Butterfly Orchid (6-7), Early Purple Orchid (4-6), Bird's Nest Orchid (5-7), Broad-leaved Helleborine (7-9), Adder's Tongue Fern (5-8), Moonwort (6-8), Meadow Saffron (8-9), Wild Daffodil (3-4), Pied Flycatcher (4-7), Wood Warbler (4-7), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dormouse, Yellow-necked Mouse, fungi.|
|There is space for two cars at the top of the hill.|
|Common Hill, Nupend Wood, Pentaloe Glen and Convallaria Area, Rudge End Quarry and Wessington Pasture|
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