Cherry Tree Wood is probably at its most beautiful in Spring and early Summer when the cherry and hawthorn blossom is out and the hornbeam trees are in leaf . Some of the flora/fauna that can be seen in the wood at this time of the year are as follows:
Ground flora are indicative of ancient woodland and the first flowers to appear are the wood anemone and dog violets which flower in April. They are closely followed by cuckoo pint and wild garlic and, lastly, bluebells which bloom in May. Most of these flowers appear along the North Western edge of the wood which forms the ancient boundary of the Bishop of London’s hunting grounds. Native iris also flower in May/June in a wet area behind the tennis courts.
The white flowers of the blackthorn bushes are perhaps the first sign of impending spring. One bush survives on the South side of the wood near the playing field. Other flowering trees found in the wood are the mountain ash and the elder which have similar large, flat, creamy-white flowerheads. There are also many hawthorn trees scattered throughout the wood and their heady scent fills the air in May when they are in flower.
The delicate green leaves of the hornbeam trees do not emerge until April when the cherry blossom is out and the leaves are preceded by their catkins. Hazel trees also have catkins, which are different dependent upon whether the tree is male or female, and they can be seen before any other tree is in leaf.
As well as the hornbeam, other major trees in the wood are oak, ash, sycamore, and maple and they all come into leaf almost simultaneously towards the end of April or the beginning of May.
All the native birds are busy nesting in spring and early summer and will not be readily sighted although their songs will fill the air particularly in the early morning and in the evening. Listen out for the noisy wren in the undergrowth and the calls of the migrant chiff-chaff (so called because of its song) and the blackcap whose beautiful song has been likened to that of a nightingale. You may also hear a song thrush, which repeats its phrases three times usually from a very high vantage point, or hear the feisty mistle thrush’s rattle as it fends off any marauding crow or magpie venturing too close to its nest. If you are very lucky, you may see a shy juvenile robin hopping about the undergrowth (with a spotted rather than a red breast) or hear the gentle churr of the long-tailed tits with their fledglings as they flit about the tree tops. On overcast days or when it has rained and it is warm and humid, cast your glance skyward and you may see swifts, housemartins and/or swallows feasting on the bonanza of insects in the air as well as starlings who often bring their noisy young into the wood.
Bramble, violets and nettle, hazel and hawthorn provide a good habitat for butterflies and moths and, throughout the summer, different types of butterfly can be seen in sunny places particularly along the path near the railway embankment. Those most likely to be encountered are brimstone (which is large and yellow), the woodland brown fritillary and the orange tip ( the female lacking the orange colour of the male).
Written by Sue Corson