The Forestry Commission’s Dymock Forest, near Newent, straddles the Gloucestershire/Herefordshire border. Part is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is in the Queen’s Wood section of Dymock Forest, known as the Michael Harper Nature Reserves. In spring, many areas of the wood are carpeted with beautiful wild daffodils.
In the late 1960s, Dr Harper highlighted eight areas within the wood that had particularly interesting and varied plants, butterflies and moths.
Volunteers from the Ledbury Naturalists Field Club and Herefordshire Wildlife Trust took on annual winter coppicing on these woodland reserves. This work continues to this day, to maintain and expand the Michael Harper Nature Reserves.
Dead wood in British woodlands is a relatively scarce habitat. Dr Harper developed a method of constructing vertical wood stacks (eco-heaps) to promote various types of decay. Being open to all aspects, some wood was always exposed to either sun or shade. These eco-heaps look a bit like wigwams! This work resulted in records of various moths, with different requirements, living on the same dead wood. Birds and other animals nest and roost in them and possibly Dormice hibernate in the bases. Many of the original eco-heaps are still standing today and some are still sturdy enough to have been added to in recent years.
Volunteers also undertake regular surveys of plants and animals in the woods, especially in the summer. So far over 1000 species of butterfly and moth have been found, many of which are classified as rare.