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The Wood Wardens

SHERRARDS PARK
WOOD

Welwyn Garden City
Hertfordshire



Published by
THE WELWYN GARDEN CITY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
1964
and printed by
PAYNE THE PRINTER (HATFIELD) LTD


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The Wood Wardens

    To assist the Corporation a number of keen and interested
local residents have voluntarily undertaken to act as Wardens of
the woods and they carry the Development Corporation's
authority to prevent abuses. They will report to the Corporation,
for whatever action it sees fit to take, any person or persons
refusing to comply with their requests that the rules laid down
for or use of the woods, should be complied with.

    The Development Corporation gratefully acknowledges its
gratitude to the residents who so zealously perform these duties
as Wood Wardens, and to Mr. W. R. Hughes, M.A., the author
of "A Hertfordshire Wood",* a booklet which inspired this
publication.

    * 33 pp. illustrated, published locally 1936. A copy may be
seen in the local Library.

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Sherrards Park Wood
Introductory

    In the North West corner of Welwyn Garden City is
Sherrards Park Wood, nearly 180 acres of natural woodland
preserved, as far as is possible, in its natural state for the recrea-
tion and enjoyment of the citizens of this town. It is felt, however,
that many people living in the town do not know of the existence
of this wood, where it is, or how to get there, and that others,
who already know of it, may wish to learn more about it. Still
others, who already use these woods, do so without realising what
an important and valuable amenity they are and too often,
through lack of knowledge, do damage to trees, plants or wild
life which is sometimes irreparable. For these reasons this small
pamphlet has been produced, so that the widest range of people
in the town may know of and fully appreciate this natural asset.

Historical

    Woods do not often have a recorded history, but there is the
evidence of flint implements that people were living where these
woods now stand perhaps 4,000 years ago. The woods are men-
tioned in the Domesday Book as part of the woodlands of the
Digswell Manor and there is recorded reference to them again in
documents dated 1285. Certain parts of the wood bear different
names, many of which establish the fact that they were planted at
different times. Some of the names such as Temple Wood and
Monks Walk lead one to look for ruins of a temple or monastery,
but there is no evidence that these ever existed and the names are
probably merely fanciful.

    The branch railway from Welwyn Garden City to Luton
passes the Southern boundary of the woods and isolates the section
known as Brocks Wood. Its isolation makes it suitably secluded
for birds and bird lovers favour it for their observations.

    In 1920, Sherrards Park Wood formed part of the land
acquired by the late Sir Ebenezer Howard for the building of

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Welwyn Garden City, and from the earliest days it has been the
town's major open space and its unique natural amenity. In the
thirties and at the end of the war, there was great opposition to,
and controversy about, the building into the woodland area which
the Garden City Company was undertaking. The Development
Corporation, when it took over, considered the case put forward
by the "Save the Woods" Committee, and decided that its master
plan should preserve these woods for public enjoyment, apart
from some tidying up and rounding off of the development begun
by the Company.


The Trees

    The dominant trees in the wood are Durmast oaks, one of the
two types of British oak which vie with each other for the title of
original "old British oak". Beneath the oaks the second typical
tree found is the hornbeam with leaves like a non-glossy beech
and a trunk of noticeably irregular section. The hornbeam is one
of the closest and hardest of British woods. This association of
hornbeam and oak is almost unique, occurring in very few other
parts of the United Kingdom and so is, botanically, of consider-
able interest.

    Sections of the woods comprise conifer plantations, mainly
larch with a mixture of Scots pine and Corsican pine. There is
also a good deal of mixed woodland containing all the common
British trees. Most frequent are silver birch, with ash, sycamore,
and hawthorn. Beech trees are rare, but several good specimens
exist and the wild cherry trees, though not numerous, are good
and a fine sight in spring. Other trees to be found include maple,
holly, mountain ash, elm, wych elm, Spanish chestnut, hazel, elder,
guelder rose and blackthorn. Two large areas are covered with the
alien rhododendron.

The Shrubs and Wild Flowers

As in any wood left in its natural state, there is a profusion
of growth under the trees. Some areas are bare, many are covered
by bracken and bramble amongst which can be found much honey-

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suckle. Dogs mercury and lesser celandine are found in profusion,
with some moschatel here and there.

    Lilies of the valley, which used to grow in the centre of the
wood, have now vanished, but foxgloves, white violets and prim-
roses are still found, though not in large numbers. Many other
plants, so common as to be almost unnoticed, grow vigorously
and, for those who are interested, the wood pimpernel. the rose-
bay willow-herb, the mulleins, St. John's Wort, bugle, violet,
woodruff and speedwell can be found. Other wild plants used to
abound but have now disappeared, due to indiscriminate digging
up of the plants.


The Beasts

    The tales of these woods indicate that they were at one time
a home of badgers though it is doubtful if they can be still found
there. There are recorded instances of foxes having their earths
there in the early days of the Garden City. More usual now are
the rabbits and occasionally their enemies the weasel or stoat.
Smaller fry such as shrews and mice, voles and moles are there
in plenty, as is the grey squirrel. The grey squirrel is alleged to
have killed off the native red squirrel and also to destroy birds'
eggs and young. Not often seen, but present in numbers is the
hedgehog, which will usually be seen hunting in the evening if one
waits for him.


The Birds

    With its variety of trees, shrubs and undergrowth the wood
is a great place for birds. Unlike the beasts, the birds can be heard
and a walk through the woods will record, for the knowledgeable,
many different bird notes. Most blatant of the birds is the jay -
noisy and gay-coloured, he does damage to gardens and to the
eggs and young of other birds. Common also are the nuthatch and
the tree creeper. Tawny owls and little owls and the green and
spotted woodpeckers are also identified. The summer migrants to
 
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the woods include the willow warbler, chiff chaff, blackcap,
garden warbler, cuckoo, whitethroat, turtle dove, tree pipit and
fly-catcher. Nightingales, night-jars and wood wrens have been
known to make the wood their home, and familiar and numerous
are the blackbirds, thrushes, robins, wrens and dunnocks, together
with the army of tits and the finches - chaffinch, greenfinch, bull-
finch and goldfinch.


The People

    If Sherrards Park Wood is to continue as woodland in per-
petuity, it must not only be used by the public with discretion but
also be properly looked after by its owners. All too easily years
of tree growth can be completely destroyed in a few moments by
thoughtless children and adults without realising the full signifi-
cance of what they are doing. Clearly it is desirable to foster a
love and respect for trees and natural things, particularly among
young people.

    The easiest way to maintain a wood is by natural regenera-
tion; that is by ensuring that sufficient young trees are growing to
take the place of the large ones which naturally form the over-
head canopy. If this becomes too dense the young trees beneath
cannot grow. On the other hand if the canopy is too thin the young
trees become choked by the ground cover. The ideal is, therefore,
to maintain a balanced growth in all the several layers of vegeta-
tion. Natural regeneration of woodland interferes less with
the public use of the area than when an area has to be cleared and
replanted because of neglect, as was the case with an area recently
overrun by rhododendrons. As some 50 acres of the woods had
been clear felled during the wars these areas are still in need of
careful management to nurse back dominant trees so that future
generations may also enjoy the beauty that is ours at present.

    It is equally all too easy for the owners to forget that trees
are not ageless and that masterly inactivity, usually taken as a
cover-up for deficiency in knowledge of a subject, can assuredly
bring about their destruction.

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The Rules

    In order to achieve the preservation of the woods some rules
are necessary to regulate the behaviour of people who use them.
These rules, laid out below, are simple and quite easy to abide by
without spoiling anyone's enjoyment.
  1. No motor vehicles may be driven or parked within the
    woods.

  2. No guns or other firearms may be brought into the woods
    or discharged there.

  3. It is an offence to take or kill birds and game in the
    woods and any person committing any such offence may
    be prosecuted under the Wild Birds Protection Act.

  4. It is an offence to damage trees and shrubs or to uproot
    any tree, plant or ferns. To take away leaf mould is
    forbidden.

  5. It is forbidden to deposit rubbish and litter of any kind
    or break bottles in the woods.

  6. Neither camping nor the lighting of fires is allowed unless
    permission has been given: this may be sought from the
    Landscape Architect at the Development Corporation
    Offices in Church Road, Welwyn Garden City.

  7. Exercising of animals must be controlled so that they do
    not become a nuisance or danger.
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Map of Sherrards Wood
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The map is reproduced from the Ordnance Survey map with the sanction of the
Controller of H. M. Stationery Office. Crown Copyright reserved.
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