What to Look for on The Hill


Cleanhill has been described as one of the most interesting and varied woodlands in the Northeast.  As you walk round, you will find a wide range of broadleaf and coniferous trees, all of which contribute to the attractiveness of the Hill at different times of the year.  In autumn, for example, the large number of Beech which cover part of the eastern slope create a vivid show, while paths in the area planted in Larch turn a brilliant orange as the needles drop.

A large proportion of the broadleaf varieties are Ash, Beech, Birch and Rowan, but in the areas of mixed woodland you can also see examples of Chestnut, Elm, Maple, Oak, and Sycamore.  Most of the conifers are non-native species, in particular European Larch and Norway Spruce, and they include a very fine Noble Fir which stands at the top of the path leading from South Street.  You will also find native conifers such as Scots Pine.

Cleanhill in Autumn

The management plan includes gradual replacement of non-native species with native ones such as Ash, Birch, Rowan and Scots Pine.  Oak will not be planted, as it may encourage grey squirrels which tend to push out red squirrels.  Coppicing will also be carried out as part of a process of opening up the woods which have become rather overgrown.  Clearance of seedlings of Beech, Sycamore and Rhododendron will encourage other species to grow.

Trees, birds and bats

Throughout the year the woodland provides a home for birds and bats which have been encouraged by the placing of bird-boxes and bat-boxes around the woodland.

As you pass through different parts of the Hill, you will hear the calls of birds such as Wood Pigeon, Blackbird, Blue Tit and Robin.  At dusk, you can hear Owls hooting.  In spring, listen for Cuckoos and the territorial drumming of Woodpeckers.  Beside the path opposite the reservoir you can see a dead tree which has been used by Woodpeckers feeding on woodworm.

The woods provide a plentiful supply of food for birds.  They hunt the millions of insects which live among the decaying branches, stumps and leaves.  In autumn the berries of the Rowan are a favourite diet and conifer cones are also valuable seed sources for some birds.

Blue Tit Robin

The best time to see bats (if you have good eyesight) is at nightfall, when they come out and fly around to feed on insects.

Dead Trees are Important

A woodland is a place of constant change.  Seedlings spring up and old trees fall down.  If there are too many seedlings of some species they can shade out other plants.  This is why the management plan includes removal of Beech and Sycamore seedlings, plus the removal of Rhododendron which can take over and poison the ground so that other plants cannot grow.

As you walk round Cleanhill you will notice a lot of fallen timber lying around, especially after there have been high winds.  The management plan provides for much of the wood to be removed, but it is important not to ‘tidy’ the wood too much!  Stumps and branches of dead trees are vital for encouraging as many species of plant, animal and fungus as possible.  Look carefully at tree stumps and branches and you will see an amazing range of mosses and fungi growing on or around them.  Fungi are the great recyclers of the wood, providing food for many other organisms, such as insects, which provide food for birds and bats.  So if dead trees are left in place, the woodland becomes a lively, interesting place to observe nature, rather than just a collection of trees.

Fly Agaric Chanterelles Bracket Fungus

One of the best displays of colour provided by fungi is by the Chanterelles which flourish beneath Beech – look for their bright orange-yellow in early autumn.  There are plenty other species but do be careful as a lot of them are poisonous!



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