A Derbyshire landscape of ancient ash woodland, old hay meadows and very rich flowering on the woodland floor - nestling in a valley of bygone industry
The Arkwright Society manages the Slinter Woodland which, in addition to being part of the World Heritage Site, has been designated a Derbyshire Wildlife site, a Local Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest by English Nature and a Special Area of Conservation by the European Habitats Directive. It is part of the Society's objective to try to discover the natural processes whereby the wood thrives and regenerates itself.
The woodland is an example of the beautiful ash woodlands for which the Derbyshire White Peak is renowned. It is an ancient and upland woodland, developed over steep slopes and exposed crags of Carboniferous limestone and is of restricted distribution in Britain. The ash tree casts only a very light shade and is late coming into leaf in the spring. This gives opportunity for a very rich flowering on the woodland floor. The shrub layer under the canopy trees is diverse and in Derbyshire there is a fortuitous mixing of northern and southern species, for example bird cherry is a northern species which is abundant in the valley while spindle, more common in the south of the country, flowers best on the sunnier southern margins of the wood.
A special tree of this woodland is the native large leaved lime. Confined to the limestone it takes root in steep, ravine-like terrain, often on cliff edges, and grows as a huge stool with several main trunks arising from the same base. Unlike most native forest trees it flowers in mid-summer when it is pollinated by insects. Although lime was widespread in the Dales' ancient woods, it is now a scarce tree – present summers in the uplands of Derbyshire tend to be too cool for it to set fertile seed. Consequently where woods have been destroyed, lime has lost ground and cannot colonise afresh. Where the tree does persist, as here, it is an indicator of ancient woodland.
In the upper wood where the soil is thin, hazel stands occur and wood anemone, a flower of spring damp woods, is abundant here and elsewhere.
Close to Slinter Cottage, the 1922 Ordnance Survey map indicates an area of young growth in Slinter Wood. It appears to relate to a clear felling event probably undertaken in response to the need for timber in World War I. The felling gave the opportunity for an abundance of sycamore to establish; the trees were about 80 years old when the Society purchased the wood.
The even-aged nature of the sycamore stand was not beneficial. The varied age structure of the natural woodland was lost and the shrub layer of hazel and guelder rose was suppressed in the shade of a uniform sycamore canopy. The Society has been involvedin the surveying and subsequent monitoring of the effects of an initial planned felling within the sycamore stand.
A more recent disastrous event is Dutch elm disease which has destroyed the status and function of elm as one of the dominant canopy trees. It is too soon to tell how the young saplings will fare.
In November 2008 graduate volunteers from Capgemini, a technology, consultancy and outsourcing firm, spent a weekend improving access in the wood. Two paths cross the brook along the dam walls but one of them was steep to climb so the volunteers constructed some steps up the slippery bank. They also improved the woodland path and turned a concrete slab into a wooden walkway.
Volunteers play an important role in the monitoring and management of Slinter Wood. If you would like to volunteer, please click here
Some notes on the history of Slinter Woodland are given here.