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Woodhouse Copse

Woodhouse Copse is mixed woodland on the north east of the island. Its key features are the attractive and butterfly rich central grass ride, the SSSI marsh/wet woodland, and a good bluebell area under the planted beech trees.

Initial consultation with stakeholders and local knowledge has identified the following as issues that should be considered when developing the plan.


The wood is mainly used by local people who walk or cycle to the site. Formal recreation facilities such as a car park and way marked trails would not be appropriate for a wood of this size.

The central grass ride is highly valued by people visiting the wood. It is important to try and avoid damaging this ride with machinery. There are few views into the woodland from the road as there is dense conifer tree cover along the roadside. These trees should be considered for early removal. The gateway is regularly used for fly tipping. Good design and management may help to discourage this.


The SSSI is in unfavorable condition as the introduced non-native trees, particularly poplar are draining the wet woodland and marsh.

Removal of timber from the wettest parts of the SSSI may lead to excessive ground damage. Ring barking and/or felling to waste (cutting down and leaving on site) may be a better alternative. All of the woodland is designated an ancient woodland site. It will require appropriate management.

Red squirrel is present in the wood. Management should respect their requirements and importance for the island by maintaining a suitable proportion of coning pine.

The central grass ride is good for common butterflies however some rarer early succession species such as pearl bordered fritillary and grizzled skipper butterflies are not present because there has been little continuity of open space creation in recent decades. However, species, which are highly mobile, for example Nightjar, may colonise new open areas from outside the wood.

Location and Ownership

Woodhouse Copse is located approximately 2 miles north-east of Newport, off the minor country road between Whippingham and Wootton. The main in gate is at grid reference SZ 527928. It is freehold woodland of 18 hectares owned and managed by the Forestry Commission. The wood is boarded to the west and north by open land and to the east by Palmers Brook, which becomes more and more marshy as it winds and slows on its way to King’s Quay and the sea to the north. There are no shooting or hunting rights exercised on the site.

The oldest trees in Woodhouse Copse are remnants of the ancient semi-natural woodland (ASNW) that was cleared and replanted in the late 1950’s using mainly coniferous species. Full replanting followed during the early 1960’s leading to the present woodland having a very even age structure.

Kings Quay Shore SSSI Status: Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) notified under Section 28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 An area of 97.16 (ha) 240.09 (ac) comprises the estuary of a small stream known as Palmers Brook, with flanking low cliffs and ancient woodland, together with the intertidal zone extending east and west from the estuary mouth.

Ecologically the site is of considerable importance in displaying a great diversity of estuarine habitats ranging from freshwater swamp, brackish reedbeds, salt marshes, shingle spits and intertidal mudflats all in close proximity. The junction between ancient woodland and seashore or salt marsh is of particular interest because it represents the interface between two natural climax ecosystems.

The woodland is of great antiquity and occurs on wet, often unstable calcareous clays and muds. It has a coppice-with-standards structure, dominated by often very large pedunculate oak Quercus robur and ashes Fraxinus excelsior with an admixture of birch Betula pendula , wild cherry Prunus avium, field maple Acer campestre and, locally, stands of alder Alnus glutinosa and wild service tree Sorbus torminalis, a species which, in southern England, is restricted to ancient woodland. The coppice layer is composed mostly of derelict hazel Corylus avellana coppice with a variety of shrubs indicative of calcium-rich soils such as dogwood Cornus sanguinea and wayfaring tree Viburnum lantana. The ground flora is often very rich in a variety of woodland plants typical of ancient woodlands, such as butcher’s broom Ruscus aculeatus , early purple orchid Orchis mascula, wild garlic Allium ursinum and green helleborine Helleborus viridis. The narrow-leaved lungwort Pulmonaria longifolia is also common in these woods, a species localised to ancient woodland on the shores of the Solent. In many places on the cliff face active landslips have been colonised by an interesting mixture of pioneer shrubs and herbaceous plants, dominated by birch, grey willow Salix cinerea and giant horsetail Equisetum telmateia. At the head of the Palmers Brook estuary the vegetation forms a complex mosaic of open freshwater swamp, dominated by reed mace Typha latifolia and the uncommon wood club-rush Scirpus sylvaticus, with intervening thickets of grey willow. The swamp vegetation gives way to extensive beds of common reed Phragmites australis in brackish water.

Further downstream these merge into a species-rich mixed salt marsh community characterised by an abundance of sea purslane Halimione portulacoides commonly with thrift Armeria maritima and sea lavender Limonium vulgare, while in slightly wetter areas, cord-grass Spartina anglica dominates. Along the estuary edge at the junction between woodland and salt marsh, a thin band of sea couch-grass Elymus pycnanthus is found, commonly with sea club-rush Scirpus maritimus. The estuary mouth is guarded by two small but significant shingle spits, which support a species-rich flora characteristic of the salt marsh–sand-dune interface. This is dominated by sea beet Beta vulgarism and knotgrass Polygonum aviculare, commonly with yellow horned poppy Glaucium flavum, sea sandwort Honkenya peploides and scentless mayweed Tripleurospermum maritimum. The rare sea heath Frankenia laevis has also been recorded from these spits. The intertidal muds are feeding grounds for modest numbers of wading birds, herons and Brent geese Branta bernicla. Eelgrass beds occur on the lower shore. The plants here show great morphological variation related to the shore levels at which they occur, but can probably all be attributed to one species – Zostera marina.

Geologically, Kings Quay Shore SSSI is nationally important for its shoreline exposure of Osborne Beds (Oligocene) in which abundant fossil fish remains are incorporated. At the eastern end of the SSSI the intertidal area at Chapel Corner is a unique site with fossil fruits and seeds derived from the Tertiary Osborne Beds. The site’s flora forms an important component part of the sequence of Tertiary fruit and seed floras seen in the British area. The fossil flora collectable here reflects the changes, which affected wetland vegetation in this area during the late Eocene. The sequence of flora here, and the palaeo botanical/palaeo environmental information it reveals is unrivalled elsewhere in rocks of this age

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This page was last edited on: 4th March, 2015 06:17:19

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