Alderley Edge IPA
Cheshire, south of Wilmslow. The site is 1½ miles east of Alderley Edge village on B5087 Macclesfield road.
Grid Reference: SJ 857 779
Alderley edge IPA has been recognised as one of 165 Important Plant Areas in the UK.
The key features of this IPA are:
Fifteen miles south of Manchester, the flat Cheshire Plain is disturbed by gently-rising land which suddenly drops away again back to the flat landscape. This is the geological Alderley Edge, a wooded escarpment of soft red sandstone which reaches to 600ft (180m) above the surrounding land.
The sandstones have been periodically mined since the Bronze Age for copper and other economic minerals. Mining has long since ceased but the whole woodland is riddled with old mine workings and relics of by-gone times.
Originally the Edge was part of an extensive oak forest that once covered Cheshire and much of the British Isles. Since pre-history, timber has been felled, gradually turning the area into open heathland. After the deliberate planting of Scots pine and beech in the 18th Century, the Edge has again become predominantly woodland. The original planting has been augmented by natural regeneration of other tree species including oak, birch, rowan and holly.
Woodland comprises around two thirds of the total area of the Edge, with beech making up 25 - 30% of the woodland cover. Scots Pine dominates the skyline of the edge resulting in the distinctive tree lined escarpment. The woodlands are home to primroses, ramsons, wood anemone, woodruff, early purple orchids and bluebells in the springtime and later, in the summer, you might find broad-leaved helleborine, wood speedwell, hedge woundwort or herb robert.
By the Middle Ages, the Edge had become a virtually treeless stretch of sandy heathland due to woodland clearance. Remnants of this are still apparent on the Edge today. You can see pockets of heather, and other heathland plant species include bilberry, purple moor grass, soft rush and heath bedstraw. The geology and environmental conditions make it ideal for rare and endangered bryophytes.