Burnham Beeches IPA
Location: South Buckinghamshire, 25 miles from London, near Farnham Common, west of the A355.
Grid Reference: SU 949 854
Burnham Beeches was acquired by the City of London in 1880, in response to a threatened purchase by residential developers. There has probably been woodland on the site since the retreat of the last ice age, but today’s landscape was created by people.
Characterised by a diverse mixture of ancient woodland, wood pasture, coppice, ponds and streams, grassland, mire and heathland, the site’s most prominent features are the veteran beech and oak pollarded trees which provide a stable habitat for many rare and endangered deadwood species.
Holly, honeysuckle and the alien Rhododendron ponticum are the main components of the shrub layer of the woodlands, and bracken and brambles frequently dominate the ground flora, but where they are absent there may just be scattered patches of wavy hair-grass and cushions of distinctive mosses.
Other woodland plants include broad buckler fern, sedges, bluebell, woodruff, enchanter's nightshade, wood anemone, wood sorrel, wood sage, wood avens, and the exceptionally rare bladderseed, long known here but otherwise found only in Devon and Cornwall. The wetter parts of the woods contain such species as bugle, water mint, marsh violet, wood club-rush and wood horsetail, of which the last three are particularly notable. Nationally important epiphytic communities, including the moss Zygodon forsteri (the species which secured Burnham Beeches status as an IPA) also occur here.
The heathland areas are diminishing as a result of invasion either by bracken or by scrub and woodland, but fragments remain. Typical of the drier areas are, bell heather, early hair-grass, heath bedstraw, heath milkwort, betony and the hawkweed, as well as gorse, broom and a few old junipers, these last of special interest because of their drastic decline in southern England. Wet heath also supports heather, but associated species here are purple moor-grass, cross-leaved heath and dwarf gorse. The wetter grounds, margins of ponds and swallowholes and the areas of open water provide a further selection of plant species of which many are now scarce. Examples are water horsetail, great reedmace, sharp-flowered rush, yellow iris , bog bean , lesser spearwort, greater bladderwort, white and yellow water-lilies, and some six species of bog moss.