Trees and Shrubs at Soudley Ponds

Along the banks of Soudley Ponds the dominant shrubs are alder and willow. In places these have developed into mature trees, with groups of three or four stout trunks reaching out at the water's edge.

Between the ponds is a wet wooded area dominated by natural alder, birch, willow and poplar - a thickly tangled type of woodland known as 'carr'. This area is periodically flooded, and is a valuable site for breeding birds. Insects, too, thrive in this leafy refuge.

In many nature reserves the water level of carr is maintained artificially. If just left to nature, it tends to dry out, so that trees which like their roots wet gradually give way to those that prefer them dry. This natural process is known as 'succession'.

In stark contrast to the alders and willows, the Douglas Firs which grow on the well-drained valley slopes reach skywards in a never-ending quest for light. Their tall, straight trunks reach up to a height of 140 feet. On a still day the reflection of the Douglas firs in the water can be quite breathtaking, especially if you remember that they were only planted just over 70 years ago!

At the edges of Foundry Wood several species of broad-leaved trees grow, including mature specimens of beech and oak. Deeper in the wood are some very large Sweet chestnut trees which in autumn produce quantities of edible chestnuts, much sought after by local people.

Aromatic evergreen

All the conifers around the Ponds have been planted. They are mostly 'exotic' (foreign) species and include - besides the majestic Douglas firs - the light green, conical-shaped Western Red Cedars that you see across the pond at the start of the walk. Try crushing their leaves between your finger and thumb - they are highly aromatic.

The seeds of alders are produced in little 'cones'. Often they fall into water and are carried a considerable distance until they lodge at the water's edge, and there germinate.

You will find Scots pine among the conifers (it has orange-coloured bark), North American Red Oak, with its large leaves, grows near the path at the top of the lower pond; while around the top pond Japanese Red Cedar has been planted.

a level pathway round this walk

the first hints of autumn

AlderAlder

the upper pond

Photographs by Rod Neep

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