Wye Valley IPA
Location: Wye Valley is an internationally important protected landscape straddling the border between England and Wales.
Grid Reference: SO 527 243
Containing some of the most beautiful lowland scenery in Britain, the Wye Valley is a protected landscape and has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Here the River Wye winds through the valley amid spectacular limestone gorge scenery and dense ravine woodlands. Running north from Chepstow, both banks of the gorge are covered in mature mixtures of oak, beech, ash, lime and many other tree species, whilst even in the less tree-clad landscape of southern Herefordshire woods are rarely out of sight, in the landscape, or clinging to the slopes above the bends of the river. Long noted for the extent and diversity of the woodlands, the Wye Valley has been identified as an IPA for the richness of the vascular plant species in these broadleaved woodland habitats.
For most of the year the ground vegetation of Wye Valley woods is dominated by brambles and evergreens, such as male fern and greater woodrush, but there are spectacular displays of spring flowers, many of the woods being carpeted with bluebells. Wild daffodil may be found scattered throughout the valley, with wood anemone, dog’s mercury, ramsons, primrose, common violet, wood spurge, yellow archangel and wood sedge. On the limestones, the distinctive wild arum is common, often with wood melick and herb paris. On heavy, poorly-drained soils tufted hair-grass occurs, with opposite-leaved golden saxifrage, kingcups and yellow flags, and sometimes wood speedwell, lady fern and pendulous sedge. Foxgloves may appear where trees are felled.
In summer the woodlands contain a variety of ferns, particularly in the lower part of the valley and around the gorge. Bracken is widespread, but on sheltered, rocky sites on the limestone the ground may be covered in hart’s-tongue, male fern, buckler fern and shield fern. Other notable species include the wild form of the well-known blue columbine, the nationally rare narrow-leaved bitter-cress and spreading bellflower. Upright spurge is found in the southernmost parts of the gorge, and as a result is often known as Tintern spurge. The woodland margins also support two other native bellflowers, nettle-leaved and northern, here, right on its southern limit. Orchids to be found in the area are bird’s-nest, early purple, greater butterfly and common spotted. The broad-leaved helleborine is frequent, and white and narrow-leaved helleborines survive in a few places. Sometimes confused with orchids is toothwort, a pale pink, leafless plant that grows in clusters attached to the roots of hazel bushes.
On cliff ledges where trees and shrubs cannot grow, rich collections of herbs have been able to survive, including colourful species, such as common rockrose, horseshoe vetch and bloody cranesbill. The valley is also noted for its populations of whitebeams, mostly common whitebeam, but also some very rare species. Mosses and liverworts are well represented, including some nationally rare species. Nationally infrequent lichens occur on limestone rocks, old trees and wet boulders. Fungi include rare and uncommon puffballs, milkcaps, cortinarius species and boletes.