Also known as Rice Wood, John Clare would have known Royce Wood as the home of majestic old oaks. He describes his love of woodland in ‘Recollections after a Ramble’
The wood is sweet, I love it well
In spending there my leisure hours
To look the snail its painted shell
And search about for curious flowers.
Or ‘neath the hazel’s leafy thatch
On a stulp or mossy ground
Little squirrel’s gambols watch
Oak trees dancing round and round
Today the wood is a young, regenerating wood following the felling of the oaks in the 1960’s, and whilst the squirrels still gambol, they are grey, not red as Clare would have known.
Sadly these birds can no longer be found in Royce Wood, reflecting the changes to its structure and the age of the trees. Cuckoos too, once a common sight and sound every morning in May, have recently become scarcer.
But the wood remains a year round home for many species of bird, including tawny owl, song thrush and great spotted woodpecker. Owls and great, blue and marsh tits all use the many nest-boxes that have been put up in the wood, as do wood mice and hornets. You can also find coal tits – another bird that is a common visitor to gardens from the wood in winter.
In the summer these residents are joined by blackcap, willow and garden warbler and in winter by siskin and the occasional woodcock.
The woodland also remains home to many wildflowers, including common spotted and great butterfly orchid, ragged robin, fleabane and marsh thistle. Butterflies, include the gatekeeper, speckled wood and white admiral, and the wood is home too to several species of dragonfly such as the brown and migrant hawker. Four species of hawk moth can also be found – pine, poplar, privet and elephant.
To reach the wood, walk past the Bluebell Inn and turn into Broadwheel Road. Turn left into the wood about 300 yards along the road and walk through the main ride and then back to the road by the path that runs along the west side of the wood.
Click the name of the bird to hear its call.