Waking up the woodland

As spring approaches we can look forward to lighter evenings and warmer days. Nature is responding to these changes, as the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust explains

AFTER the gradual awakening of those early starters, snowdrops and wild daffodils, things are now starting to get going with vigour.Woodlands are ideal places to see this annual celebration unfolding. Bluebells may not yet be in bloom, but are putting on a spurt of growth to take advantage of the few weeks before the trees unfurl their leaves and reduce their light.Other woodland floor plants like yellow archangel and wood anemone, sorrel and celandine are also competing for those important rays of spring sunlight, daubing the wood with splashes of fresh yellows, pinks and whites.Above them, buds are swelling and lime green 'flags' are uncurling along every tree branch. Small birds are hunting along the bark and shoots for insect food and many are already well into finding a mate and building nests. Foxes are rearing their cubs in dens and badger young are starting to take their first tentative look outside the setts they were born in only a few short weeks before. Even the least 'outdoorsy types' amongst us are wondering at the prospect of a nice walk in the wood to shake off the last of the winter cobwebs.

You can join inTo celebrate the start of this season 'Wake up the Wood' will run from March 16-22. A programme of events and activities, many of them centred on woodlands, has been organised across the county, with some also taking place on wetland and grassland sites. Full details of these can be obtained by contacting the trust.Our 'Wake up the Wood' events are open to everyone and apart from raising awareness of springtime and woodlands, we're also highlighting our final push to raise money to buy Balls Wood near Hertford. Regular Hertfordshire Life readers will know that we have until the end of this month to save the 58 hectare woodland from a very uncertain future, not only because it is a wonderful place, but also because it is a vital link with other 'woodscapes' across the east of the county.

An ancient havenBalls Wood is a mix of ancient woodland - hornbeam, oak, ash and maple - and coppiced areas too with many woodland paths (rides) and glades. It supports badgers, deer, the rare herb paris plant, flocks of tits, woodpeckers, sparrowhawks and much more, whilst its ponds and ditches are home to frogs, toads and all three types of British newt.In summer it is alive with butterflies and dragonflies. We think it is too precious to lose, and we hope you'll visit it and agree - and help us fight to save it. It is also adjacent to beautiful Hertford Heath Nature Reserve - another great place to visit, especially in August when its heathland is in full bloom.To support the Balls Wood appeal please contact us at; Grebe House, St Michael's Street, St Albans AL3 4SN01727 858901 info@hmwt.orgTo visit any of our 47 nature reserves - including those mentioned on this page - or to find out about more about our work, contact Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust on 01727 858901, email info@hmwt.org or visit www.wildlifetrust.org.uk/herts