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Lady Park Wood was set aside as a 'natural' (i.e. unmanaged) reserve for ecological research in 1944 and the trees, shrubs and ground vegetation have been recorded in detail ever since. The 70 years of observations now represent one of the largest and most detailed records in Europe of how a woodland develops under the influence of natural factors. The observations have generated a series of papers since 1987 and have contributed to meta-analyses of long-term change across temperate Europe and North America, but there has never been a general account of the wood as a research reserve, save for articles in British Wildlife in 1995 and 2005.
The main record comprises detailed measurements of 20,000 individual trees and shrubs, from which the performance of populations of oak, beech, ash, limes, etc. can be quantified in detail, and the development of a near-natural wood and the factors influencing it can be detailed. Woodland Development also makes reference to woods elsewhere in Britain and Europe. It mainly deals with populations of native tree species, individually and collectively.
It also broadens out to consider the implications for nature conservation, re-wilding and remoteness, near-to-nature forestry, monitoring and long-term ecological research, the meaning of natural woodland, and even aspects of woodland history.
Chapter 1: Understanding woods
Chapter 2: Lady Park Wood and its history
Chapter 3: The ecological reserve
Chapter 4: Recording trees and expressing change
Chapter 5: The Changing wood
Chapter 6: Ash - the tree in the spotlight
Chapter 7: Beech and oak, the major forest trees
Chapter 8: Limes and wych elm
Chapter 9: Birch and other short-lived canopy trees
Chapter 10: Field maple and hazel, the other coppice species
Chapter 11: Minor trees and shrubs
Chapter 12: Habitats
Chapter 13: Species
Chapter 14: Long-term ecological studies
Chapter 15: Natural woodland in theory and practice
Chapter 16: Near-to-nature forestry
Chapter 17: Re-wilding, remoteness and wilderness
After a PhD at University College, London and a short appointment in Aberystwyth University, Dr George Peterken was for two years co-ordinator of part of the International Biological Programme and then scientific officer in the Biological Records Centre. He was then appointed to the Nature Conservancy's woodland management section at Monks Wood in 1969, and remained a woodland ecologist with NC and successor bodies until 1992, spending much of his time as the senior woodland ecologist in the Chief Scientist's Team, where his work ranged from policy negotiations through research commissioning, personal research and lecturing to on-site management advice, in fact anything and everything that might advance woodland ecology and nature conservation. He took a sabbatical for 18 months in 1989-90 to study so-called virgin forests in mainland Europe and to hold a Bullard Fellowship at Harvard University. In 1993, he went independent. For a decade he was part-time nature conservation advisor to the Forestry Commission, but was also involved in collaborative research projects, teaching, lecturing, writing and routine consultancy. Shortly after the Millennium he decided to spend his time mainly writing a New Naturalist volume and more recently a book on Meadows – meadows being a retirement hobby. Long-term studies have been a theme of his research and research-commissioning since the 1970s, when he first became involved with Lady Park Wood, the subject of this book. Dr Peterken's interest in historical ecology dates from the 1960s.
After completing an Honours Degree in Field Biology and Habitat Management, Edward Mountford was employed as a Nature Conservation Advisor covering the county of Shropshire. He then completed a PhD thesis through The Open University, studying natural woodland development across a series of woodland reserves, from the New Forest to the Scottish Highlands. Post-doctoral research followed via two EU-funded projects, which included a four-year period focusing on the management of beech forests at a European-level. Topics addressed in detail included natural regeneration, natural stand development, dead wood, and woodland management and history. Later he was employed as a UK-level Advisor by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, providing detailed advice to Government on habitat assessment, classification and designation, as well as other areas from the impact of air pollution to green infrastructure. He now works independently, based in Lancashire, and retains his general interest in the history and conservation of the countryside at large.
"This book is about an unmanaged, ancient wood in the lower Wye Valley. Among books on woodlands, this one is unique. Here are observations made over the course of 70 years on 21,000 individual trees and interpreted in a beautifully rounded way by two leading forest ecologists who have been involved in the study for many years. [...] This is not a textbook of woodland management or a plea for minimum intervention. It’s about getting to know one ‘natural’ wood in depth over a long time. In doing so, it brings us very close to the key issues for all ecological aspects of management and provides a solid background against which to judge our options. Reading this book will surely change the way you see your favourite wood."
– Duncan Davidson, Living Woods Magazine 50, Winter 2018
"[...] If you are interested in historical ecology, long-term research or woodland ecology there will be plenty for you here. This is all helped by the clear writing and quiet humour of the authors, bringing alive events and people but always based on fascinating ecology."
– Peter Thomas, BES Bulletin 49(2), June 2018
"This is the story of Lady Park Wood, a story that is still ongoing. [...] Even if you have read the papers that have come out of the Lady Park Wood research over the years, there will suspect, still be new insights from this book; it is also very convenient to have the story to date in one place. The book is written in George Peterken’s usual clear, precise style, and is well illustrated with photographs. For ts size, it is also reasonably priced [...]"
– Keith Kirby, British Wildlife, Volume 29(2)