Westfield Wood

Westfield Wood

Map reference: O.S. Maps 178 & 188 TQ 755607

LocationClearly visible from the A229, Maidstone-Chatham road (Blue Bell Hill). Bus 101 Maidstone and Chatham/Gillingham on A229 (3/4 mile).

StatusSAC, Kent Downs AONB, SSSI

AccessAccess to the southern end may be gained by taking the Pilgrim's Way footpath behind the Shell garage on the A229 (TQ 751602). Park on the old Chatham road below the garage. A circular path circumnavigates the wood. This is level and easy going in places but steep and uneven on some of the slopes.

Points of interestThis five-and-a-half hectare site is part of an internationally important yew woodland complex. The steep chalky slopes of the central part of the wood are occupied by a dense stand of yew overtopped in places by mature ash and beech, with some field maple, wild cherry and oak. Some of the beech trees are fine specimens whilst others have died and provide important dead wood habitat for many insects and fungi.

A large section in the centre of the reserve was flattened by the October 1987 storm. This area has been left untouched and is monitored to record natural regeneration after this natural disturbance event.

On deeper soils in the northern part and in more level areas, hazel and ash coppice occurs. Here oak is more abundant, and crab apple can be found. Diligent search may yield butcher's-broom and green hellebore, whilst at the southern end, is stinking hellebore. There is also a fine colony of stinking iris, its orange seeds persisting through the winter.

Down the western edge, a good mixture of shrubs includes burnet rose, guelder-rose, spindle, wayfaring-tree and wild privet. The more common orchids of chalk scrub and woodland are present, mainly in one or two small clearings and at the field margins, but all are scarce. Many common woodland bird species are present including green and great spotted woodpecker, and goldcrest. During October and November flocks of thrushes can be seen feeding on the crop of yew berries.

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