Grid Reference: TG 344 079
GPS Coordinates: 52.618879, 1.4626864
Size: 0.5 ha (1.3 acres).
Owned By: Blofield District Conservation Group (acquired from Norfolk Wildlife Trust summer 2000)
Access Parking: Private – access by prior arrangement or during BADCOG work-parties. The aptly named Railway Wood, between Brundall and Strumpshaw, is adjacent to the Norwich-Great Yarmouth rail line. It is accessed via the public footpath running between Cuckoo Lane and Long Lane. The footpath runs along the eastern boundary just inside the wood and crosses the rail line (take care when crossing). From either direction, the footpath crosses arable fields so please stay on the path until you reach the wood. If visiting by car, please do not park on Long Lane which is narrow and often busy. Park in Strumpshaw village or on Cuckoo Lane where care should be taken to avoid inconvenience to other countryside users.
Habitats: Broad-leaved semi-natural woodland.
Main Conservation Interest: Woodland flora.
Conservation Status: None.
Management: Managed by BADCOG since 1994.
Description: Railway Wood, formerly owned by British Rail, is on the site of an old borrow pit from which earth was taken for use in the construction of the railway at Braydeston in the early 1880’s. Prior to this, the site was enclosed farmland, and the railway was built along an existing field hedge line. Today, the wood is surrounded on all sides by agricultural land, with the railway line forming its northern boundary. Within the immediate locality, the line is bordered by scrub: predominantly oak, hawthorn and blackthorn. This provides a useful buffer for the reserve and serves as a ‘corridor’ for mobile animals including birds, mammals and insects.
The wood has a northerly aspect and is quite shaded, particularly during late autumn and winter when the sun remains low. The steep, sloping edge of the old pit along the southern boundary lends character to the wood. Oak, hawthorn and elder predominate, while a blackthorn thicket, silver birch, grey poplar, sallow, holly, ash, wild cherry and a Swedish whitebeam add diversity to this small reserve. Several large oaks dominate the wood’s eastern end, with an understorey of hawthorns. Some of these are clothed in vigorous, climbing ivy which is valuable as a late source of nectar and shelter for small animals. The site’s ground flora is impoverished, particularly at the eastern end of the wood. There are however, areas where the ground flora becomes richer, with conspicuous patches of ground-ivy and primrose.
Other flowering plants of interest include bugle, common twayblade, common valerian and common dog-violet. The old hedgeline along which the railway was constructed may have been the original source of the primroses, or perhaps they were intentionally planted along with some of the trees.
The long term management aim is to enhance the wood’s floristic interest while retaining the site’s present general character. Management will mainly be low-input, undertaken in stages spanning several winter seasons. A large proportion of the wood will be left unmanaged, particularly the blackthorn thickets and the area of even-aged oak, ash and hawthorn at the eastern end. Elder and other shrubs in the area supporting primroses have been coppiced and interplanted with several species including hazel, spindle and field maple. Once established, these will also be coppiced on rotation to mimic the conditions of a coppice-with-standards woodland. Small clumps of silver birch, sallow and grey poplar may also be coppiced in future. At the narrow western end, where the ground flora is dominated by ground-ivy and nettle, elders have been removed to increase the level of light reaching the ground. The objective is to increase the extent of potentially suitable woodland into which a woodland flora may develop. In March 2010 trees and shrubs were planted in an area which had opened up due to other trees and shrubs dying back and damaged trees being removed.
Mammal and bird sightings include fox, mole, hedgehog, rabbit, sparrowhawk, woodcock, and lesser whitethroat.
When To Visit: In May for primroses which flower later than at most other sites. Adjacent to the reserve, the south-facing railway embankment (opposite the stile) is also floristically interesting (June is a good time to visit), with an abundance of agrimony, perforate St. John’s-wort, common cornsalad, wild carrot and wild strawberry. Nearby Long Lane Roadside Nature Reserve is also well worth visiting.