Protecting the Bluebells in Chalet Wood
In not-too-many weeks people will be visiting Wanstead Park particularly to see the show of native bluebells in Chalet Wood. This is fast becoming an annual event for some, although few will stop to think of the effort that has gone in over the years for them to appear like this. For many years – perhaps since the early 1980's – the Wren Conservation and Wildlife Group has been visiting the wood during the winter to clear fallen tree-litter and brambles so that the bluebells can grow better and look better.
The plants are almost becoming a victim of their own success: increased visitors invariably mean increased trampling. In 2010 I wrote an article in this website which included the suggestion that some form of path-delineation might be in order to guide people through the wood, and – preferably – off the bluebells. This winter, the idea has come to fruition, with the delivery some eight weeks ago of some timber cuttings from further north in the Forest, courtesy of Epping Forest staff.
The timber was dropped off for us in a few spots in the wood. It was a larger diameter than I would have wanted, but this was necessary because smaller pieces would quickly have been used to make the “wigwam” structures that pop up here and elsewhere in Wanstead Park.
As I write this article, seven weekly visits have been made to Chalet Wood to arrange the edgings along desire-line paths. At most of these visits, just three of us – Gill and Alan James and myself – have used to-hand levers and makeshift rollers to move in some cases some considerable logs into position. This is in addition, of course to lifting, moving and sawing slightly smaller ones.
Most of the comments from passers-by have been favourable, with the realisation that there is likely not to be so much trampling. Some comments have been made that some of the paths are too wide, but this could be dealt with in future if necessary. We have deliberately left the wigwams; children, and perhaps some adults, seem to enjoy building them and we'd like to encourage play in more “natural” surroundings. We have moved some of the largest logs into positions where it might be nice to sit down and appreciate the woods.
I anticipate that it will make a difference to the show of bluebells. It is not meant to be a physical barrier to walking anywhere in the wood, but might act as a psychological one. Over time the logs will rot down. By then it is hoped that the trackways through the wood will be more defined anyway, so that people can enjoy Chalet Wood at any time of the year.
Paul Ferris, 13th March 2014