Firth Wood bluebell walk

Frith Wood - Morley Penistan nature reserve

Frith Wood is a magnificent cathedral-like grove of 150 year old beeches. The trees are tall, straight and flawless, deriving from a European strain imported during the 18th and 19th centuries when planting beechwoods became fashionable.

The wood is a majestic sight, crowning the ridge between Slad and Painswick valleys. However, it's only by walking in it that you appreciate the full beauty of the soaring beeches and, at this time of year, the vibrant swaths of bluebells that carpet the woodland floor.

Frith Wood has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) since 1954, and so escaped the widespread destruction of ancient woodlands in the late 20th century. It was almost certainly a 'wooded common' until the 18th century when it was enclosed as private land and managed for timber. The present beeches were planted in the early 19th century and managed sympathetically by a number of private owners, most recently the Workman family which sold the wood to the Trust to manage as a nature reserve in 1987.

For full details of the reserve please request a copy of the Trust's Frith Wood - Morley Penistan nature reserve leaflet by phoning 01452 383333 or emailing info@gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk.

Walking in Frith Wood


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There are lots of tracks and paths in Frith Wood and visitors are welcome to explore them all. The map shows public footpaths and bridleways, plus our own circular walk. All have steep sections and muddy patches.

 

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Points of interest (signpost as per leaflet)

The old drove road - until the turnpike (now B4070) opened in the 18th century the old road from Birdlip to Stroud passed through Frith Wood Common along the main bridleway. The dung of many cattle and sheep have enriched the soils along this road favouring plants like hedge woundwort, nettle and wild clematis.

Death and rebirth - Notice the roots of the many huge trees destroyed in the gale of 1990. Gaps have filled naturally with beech, ash and other speices.

Seat and pans lodge - Detour here to find the seat dedicated to Morley Penistan, forester and past chairman of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust. It faces Painswick though please note that tress grow and have hidden the view. This is also the site of Pan's Lodge, a fashionable 'Arcadian' retreat built by Benjamin Hyett of Painswick House in the mid 1700s and dedicated to Pan and the pursuit of happiness. By the 1820s the building had vanished, leaving only a mound and surrounding 'garden' plantings. Hyett's descendants still reside at the Rococo Gardens in Painswick where the statue of Pan also stands.

The Quarry - The coarse-grained ragstones were probably quarried for the enclosure walls and perhaps for Pans Lodge too. The shady quarry is now ideal for ferns and invertebrates. Look out for the snail Ena Montana grazing algae on damp trees

Minimum intervention - Two areas are being left to develop naturally. One is mature beech and the other is the oak/ash wood near the quarry. Here bluebells grow well under the oaks and bovines nest in the ivy. Blackcaps and warblers sing in spring as the great-spotted woodpecker drums for its mate.

Glades - Sunny glades are kept open to encourage wildflowers and insects. Shrubs like wayfaring tree and builder rose flourish in sunlight along the bridleway beside ash and beech saplings.

Bluebells

Up to half of the world's bluebells grow in the British Isles, making it one of Britain's most important natural species. From April bluebells begin to appear, particularly in shady woodland habitats such as Frith Wood, creating spectacular blue mists. But even with all this natural abundance, our native bluebell is under threat. The Spanish bluebell, a species imported for use in gardens, is beginning to invade our woodlands and threaten the future of our own native variety.

 

To help protect the British bluebell, gardeners need to check the origin of what they're planning and ensure it's our own native bluebell. Unwanted Spanish bluebells should be composted rather than discarded in the wild, and the identity of bulbs used in new native woodland creation schemes should be checked.

 

Native bluebells - fairly narrow leaves and the flower stem droops or nods distinctly to one side at the top. The flowers have quite a strong scent and are deep violet blue

Spanish bluebells - stiff upright flower stems and pale to mid-blue flowers, usually sticking out all the way around the stem with little or no scent.

Did you know? Bluebells were used as a substitute for starch and were in demand in the days when stiff ruffs were worn. The flowers gummy character mant it was also employed as bookbinders' gum. Elizabathans used it to stick paper and it was also used for setting feathers upon arrows.

 

Reserve management

Frith Wood is a magnificent example of ancient beechwood habitat, which means it's known to have been wooded by 1600 at the latest. It is managed as 'high forest', which means trees grow to maturity and any felling is selective and infrequent. The canopy is dense and sunlight rarely reaches the woodland floor. Over the past two centuries a moist shady atmosphere has developed in Frith Wood, which is good for shade-loving wild flowers like white helleborine and common wintergreen, and snails like Ena Montana.

 

As you walk around the reserve you'll notice many strong young trees. In 1957 there was no younger generation to replace the aging beeches. To remedy this, small areas were felled and gaps soon filled naturally with beech and ash saplings. These are periodically thinned to encourage growth, but it will be a century before they reach their full height. The Trust will continue to manage the wood in this way, as 'high forest', for the benefit of wildlife. 

How to find Frith Wood - Morley Penistan Nature Reserve

OS grid ref SP 875 085

Three miles from Stroud on the B4070. Go through Slad village until Frith Wood (above on your left) merges with the road at Bulls Cross Common and cross-roads. Park in the long lay-by on your right. Cross over the road and walk back to the reserve gate entrance.

Essential information

Please do not disturb plants, animals, rocks or soils. Horse riders are asked to keep to bridleways. Please do not enter private woodland and neighbouring fields.

Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust is a countywide charity which manages 73 nature reserves covering over 2,500 acres. Its aim is to secure a natural environment which the people of Gloucestershire and visitors can enjoy for generations to come. Local membership numbers 20,000 people and 300 regular volunteers give their time to support the Trust's work. Membership of the Trust costs from just £2 a month. Join on-line at www.gloucestershirewidlifetrust.co.uk, call 01452 383333 or visit the Trust's Conservation Centre at Robinswood Hill Country Park, Gloucester.

Frith Wood - Morley Penistan nature reserve

Frith Wood is a magnificent cathedral-like grove of 150 year old beeches. The trees are tall, straight and flawless, deriving from a European strain imported during the 18th and 19th centuries when planting beechwoods became fashionable.

The wood is a majestic sight, crowning the ridge between Slad and Painswick valleys. However, it's only by walking in it that you appreciate the full beauty of the soaring beeches and, at this time of year, the vibrant swaths of bluebells that carpet the woodland floor.

Frith Wood has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) since 1954, and so escaped the widespread destruction of ancient woodlands in the late 20th century. It was almost certainly a 'wooded common' until the 18th century when it was enclosed as private land and managed for timber. The present beeches were planted in the early 19th century and managed sympathetically by a number of private owners, most recently the Workman family which sold the wood to the Trust to manage as a nature reserve in 1987.

For full details of the reserve please request a copy of the Trust's Frith Wood - Morley Penistan nature reserve leaflet by phoning 01452 383333 or emailing info@gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk.

Walking in Frith Wood

There are lots of tracks and paths in Frith Wood and visitors are welcome to explore them all. The map shows public footpaths and bridleways, plus our own circular walk. All have steep sections and muddy patches.

 

Points of interest (signpost as per leaflet)

The old drove road - until the turnpike (now B4070) opened in the 18th century the old road from Birdlip to Stroud passed through Frith Wood Common along the main bridleway. The dung of many cattle and sheep have enriched the soils along this road favouring plants like hedge woundwort, nettle and wild clematis.

Death and rebirth - Notice the roots of the many huge trees destroyed in the gale of 1990. Gaps have filled naturally with beech, ash and other speices.

Seat and pans lodge - Detour here to find the seat dedicated to Morley Penistan, forester and past chairman of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust. It faces Painswick though please note that tress grow and have hidden the view. This is also the site of Pan's Lodge, a fashionable 'Arcadian' retreat built by Benjamin Hyett of Painswick House in the mid 1700s and dedicated to Pan and the pursuit of happiness. By the 1820s the building had vanished, leaving only a mound and surrounding 'garden' plantings. Hyett's descendants still reside at the Rococo Gardens in Painswick where the statue of Pan also stands.

The Quarry - The coarse-grained ragstones were probably quarried for the enclosure walls and perhaps for Pans Lodge too. The shady quarry is now ideal for ferns and invertebrates. Look out for the snail Ena Montana grazing algae on damp trees

Minimum intervention - Two areas are being left to develop naturally. One is mature beech and the other is the oak/ash wood near the quarry. Here bluebells grow well under the oaks and bovines nest in the ivy. Blackcaps and warblers sing in spring as the great-spotted woodpecker drums for its mate.

Glades - Sunny glades are kept open to encourage wildflowers and insects. Shrubs like wayfaring tree and builder rose flourish in sunlight along the bridleway beside ash and beech saplings.

Bluebells

Up to half of the world's bluebells grow in the British Isles, making it one of Britain's most important natural species. From April bluebells begin to appear, particularly in shady woodland habitats such as Frith Wood, creating spectacular blue mists. But even with all this natural abundance, our native bluebell is under threat. The Spanish bluebell, a species imported for use in gardens, is beginning to invade our woodlands and threaten the future of our own native variety.

 

To help protect the British bluebell, gardeners need to check the origin of what they're planning and ensure it's our own native bluebell. Unwanted Spanish bluebells should be composted rather than discarded in the wild, and the identity of bulbs used in new native woodland creation schemes should be checked.

 

Native bluebells - fairly narrow leaves and the flower stem droops or nods distinctly to one side at the top. The flowers have quite a strong scent and are deep violet blue

Spanish bluebells - stiff upright flower stems and pale to mid-blue flowers, usually sticking out all the way around the stem with little or no scent.

Did you know? Bluebells were used as a substitute for starch and were in demand in the days when stiff ruffs were worn. The flowers gummy character mant it was also employed as bookbinders' gum. Elizabathans used it to stick paper and it was also used for setting feathers upon arrows.

Reserve management

Frith Wood is a magnificent example of ancient beechwood habitat, which means it's known to have been wooded by 1600 at the latest. It is managed as 'high forest', which means trees grow to maturity and any felling is selective and infrequent. The canopy is dense and sunlight rarely reaches the woodland floor. Over the past two centuries a moist shady atmosphere has developed in Frith Wood, which is good for shade-loving wild flowers like white helleborine and common wintergreen, and snails like Ena Montana.

 

As you walk around the reserve you'll notice many strong young trees. In 1957 there was no younger generation to replace the aging beeches. To remedy this, small areas were felled and gaps soon filled naturally with beech and ash saplings. These are periodically thinned to encourage growth, but it will be a century before they reach their full height. The Trust will continue to manage the wood in this way, as 'high forest', for the benefit of wildlife.

How to find Frith Wood - Morley Penistan Nature Reserve

OS grid ref SP 875 085

Three miles from Stroud on the B4070. Go through Slad village until Frith Wood (above on your left) merges with the road at Bulls Cross Common and cross-roads. Park in the long lay-by on your right. Cross over the road and walk back to the reserve gate entrance.

Essential information

Please do not disturb plants, animals, rocks or soils. Horse riders are asked to keep to bridleways. Please do not enter private woodland and neighbouring fields.

Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust is a countywide charity which manages 73 nature reserves covering over 2,500 acres. Its aim is to secure a natural environment which the people of Gloucestershire and visitors can enjoy for generations to come. Local membership numbers 20,000 people and 300 regular volunteers give their time to support the Trust's work. Membership of the Trust costs from just £2 a month. Join on-line at www.gloucestershirewidlifetrust.co.uk, call 01452 383333 or visit the Trust's Conservation Centre at Robinswood Hill Country Park, Gloucester.

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