- Around and about Bourne, Lincolnshire, England -
A CART TRACK leads to Dole Wood, a small surviving piece of ancient woodland amid a large tract of farmland on the outskirts of Bourne. This is one of the most attractive copses in the county and is managed by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust whose volunteers spend many hours maintaining the area and keeping the paths open for visitors. Bluebells carpet the floor in springtime followed by ramsons and ox-eye daisies and there is a wide variety of birds and small mammals. A circular route around the perimeter of under a mile enables the visitor to enjoy the delights of this small wood without disturbing the flora and fauna and once seen, it is inevitable that you will return.
It consists mainly of oak with hazel coppice but there are also ash, field maple, wych elm and wild service trees and both common and midland hawthorn can be seen in the understorey. Bluebell, wood anemone and stitchwort are the most abundant species in the ground flora but wood sorrel, wood sage, false brome, enchanter's nightshade, bugle, yellow archangel and sweet woodruff can also be seen. The birds to be found here include the lesser and great spotted woodpeckers, treecreeper, whitethroat, blackcap, willow warbler and spotted flycatcher. Over 120 species of moth have also been identified within the reserve. Management consists of bramble control, the re-establishment of a coppice rotation and the maintenance of some permanent glades.
The name Dole Wood puzzles many visitors and the explanation is not a simple one. Dole can mean a share or portion and could have been a division of property or common over which one person had the right to cut fuel. The hazel underwood was cut regularly in places such as this as part of the woodland management. It was felled as doles and sold at dole sales. Prospective buyers came along to select the dole that suited them. Two other possibilities are doles, meaning short handles on scythes and a dole axe, a tool used for dividing slats for wattle gates. Hazel had a variety of other local uses including bobbin wood, stakes and binding for hedge laying, pea and bean stakes. Oak and ash were more valuable as older trees and were felled selectively. Thus old woodlands frequently show a continuous range of tree sizes and ages and in small woods such as this, the oaks range from 30 to 120 years.
It is generally accepted that the appearance of bluebells in profusion is a sign of ancient woodland and there is evidence that Dole Wood falls into that category. This copse is a remaining fragment of the extensive primeval woodland cover of South Lincolnshire known as the forest of Brunswald that was uprooted in the cause of agriculture although oaks that grew in the vicinity may also have been cut down during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I to help build the navy that was deployed to fight the Spanish Armada. The clearance was continued in later centuries to provide more land for England's burgeoning agricultural industry but, ironically, we no longer have need for such intensive farming production and we cannot now bring back the forests that filled the rural landscapes of yesteryear.
Dole Wood covers 6.6 acres (2.7 hectares) and has been held on leasehold by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust since 1975. It is one of 106 nature reserves throughout the county administered by the trust since it was founded in 1948, the third of the wildlife trusts to be formed that now cover the whole of the United Kingdom. Membership of the trust reached 13,000 during 2001 and rises gradually.
The bluebells in Dole Wood during April are one of the delights of our local countryside and the trust holds an annual open day towards the end of the month to ensure that as many people as possible enjoy this wondrous sight. It is a hidden gem, well off the beaten track. You will find it approximately 2½ miles south of Bourne near to the village of Thurlby and cars may be parked on the roadside along Obthorpe Lane which runs south from the village and roughly parallel to and west of the main A15 road between Peterborough and Lincoln. If you have time to spare, then a visit is one that you will remember for many years to come.
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