Foxley Wood does get a chapter in Neil Glenn's book "Best Birdwatching Sites In Norfolk" though apart from a very slim chance of seeing a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker it hardly appears to be worthy of inclusion on birding grounds alone. It is however one of the largest natural oakwoods in Norfolk and also home of one of the most spectacular shows of Bluebells in the country.
|"one of the most spectacular shows of bluebells in the country."|
My initial impression was that this wasn't much of a wood: the track went through a large area of scrub, young trees struggling to get above their neighbours. A few spindly trees grew above them and there were one or two conifers mixed in. A sign explained that during the 1960's the area was cleared of its natural woodland and conifers were planted for pit props. The market collapsed and the wood was bought by the Norfolk Naturalists Trust who felled the conifers to allow the native trees to re-establish the wood. The trees have proved very resilient and no trees have actually been planted; all these trees have regrown naturally. At least two Willow Warblers were singing from the dense cover.
"more mature woodland"
"a large plot of coppiced trees"
"a clump of early purple orchids"
Now, where are these Bluebells? A narrow path led off towards a bank rich with bluebells but a look at the map confirmed that a more extensive patch of flowers lay along the more distinct track leading to the right. After just a few steps I could see a suggestion of blue through the undergrowth, then a patch of flowers right beside the path. A little further and I was gazing at a carpet of Bluebells stretching from my feet, between the bushes and in among the distant trees. The camera soon came out, but finding the right viewpoint was far from easy, particularly as I didn't want to stray off the path and trample any blooms.
"a carpet of bluebells"
The Bluebells stretched along both sides of the track for several hundred yards and I made slow progress with camera constantly at the ready. A few other people were also enjoying the show, but not as many as I would expect at the weekend. A man approached me and asked if I might be a botanist as he had seen me looking closely at the flowers. I told him I wasn't. "Ah, neither am I, I fear. In fact as I get older I realise the great depths of my ignorance." And with that he strode off, whistling merrily. I turned his odd words over in my mind. Turned them completely upside down in fact. Isn't realising your own ignorance much the same as being aware of the greater mystery?
"looking closely at the flowers"
Eventually the Bluebells petered out but they were replaced by small clumps of other flowers scattered along the grassy verges of the track. The white stars of Wood Anemones studded the shady places. A few bright yellow flowers of Celandine still remained. Primroses formed little bouquets in among the greenery and there were also contributions from Violets, Wood Sorrel, Meadow Sweet and Wood Avens.
"primroses formed little bouquets"
Chiffchaffs sang their monotonous song as I sat on a bench soaking up the spring sunshine. I realised that there was a track forming a short-cut back to the Bluebell wood. I followed the path, more to explore it than because I wanted to cut short the experience. It led me to a small gate with a sign which, apart from telling me to enjoy my walk, also promised the spectacle of "flying sheep". It went on to explain that the Norfolk Wildlife Trust has a flock which it moves around its many sites in order to control the spread of scrub by grazing. Not as exciting as flying sheep but more useful.
"a short-cut back to the bluebell wood"