Savernake Forest IPA
Location: North Wiltshire, about one mile (2km) southeast of the town Marlborough, between the A4 and A346.
Grid Reference: SU 221 663
The haunting wooded landscape of Savernake is home to more than 5,000 ancient oak and beech trees, some of which are over 1000 years old. No wonder this amazing forest supports over 500 species of fungi and 120 species of lichens.
Lying on the north Wessex downs south-east of Marlborough, Savernake is the largest privately owned ancient hunting forest in England. There are around 2,600 ancient oaks and 2,400 ancient beech trees in the Forest. Some of these are famous, such as the ‘Saddle Oak’, the ‘King of Limbs’, and the ‘Big Bellied Oak’, thought to be 1100 years old.
Originally it was a wood pasture, the oldest trees being relict veterans from the time this was more open forest grazed by livestock. As the animals were removed, more trees were planted in the eighteenth and nineteenth century with beech and oak. These, along with natural regeneration of silver birch, ash, downy birch, rowan and willows has produced the thick forest we see today. Wych elm, field maple, holly and hawthorn also occur and hazel is locally frequent in former coppice areas. As you can imagine, Savernake is particularly beautiful when the trees take on their autumn colours.
The woods are perhaps at their finest in spring, when many of the glades are carpeted with bluebells, along with wood-sorrel, primroses, herb Robert, violets, ramsons, wood forget-me-not, early purple orchid, enchanter’s nightshade and garlic mustard. More than fifty plant species which are indicative of ancient woodland have been recorded here, including four different species of helleborine orchids, namely violet, broad-leaved, narrow-lipped and green-flowered helleborines.
The woodland has an outstanding lichen flora, with nearly 120 species recorded, many of which are characteristic of old forests. Some of the species are extremely rare, including Caloplaca herbidella, which was recorded for the first time from Savernake, Lemon Stubble Lichen and Lecanora sublivescens, known worldwide from only the UK and Sweden. Woodland mosses and liverworts are also well represented, amongst them a rare liverwort known as spotty fingers.
The exceptional diversity of fungi in the Forest, with well over 500 species, can generally be attributed to the long continuity of the woodland with its living and decaying wood, and the presence of areas of unimproved grassland which support their own fungus flora.