Welcome to Ravensroost WoodOwned and managed by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, the wood was bought in 1987 with grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, English Nature and the Worldwide Fund for Nature. The aim is to manage the wood using traditional coppice management to enhance and maintain the variety of wildlife.
Ravensroost Wood is an ancient remnant of the medieval Royal Hunting Forest of Braydon. Parts have been under continuous woodland cover since at least 1600 and this means a huge range of trees, flowers, birds and insects have had time to make their homes here. Due to its conservation importance it is legally protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Historically, Ravensroost Wood has been managed as a coppice wood to provide a variety of products for the local community. The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust is now restoring this form of management for the benefit of wildlife. Local craftsmen also gain as a result.
Traditionally Ravensroost Wood was managed as a coppice rotation with standards. The cutting of the understorey and the retention of occasional oak tree standards benefits the wild flowers, butterflies and birds. The wood was neglected for at least ten years before the Trust bought it and started to restore the coppice cycle. Blocks of approximately 0.5 hectares are cut each year by volunteers and contractors. The materials go for timber, firewood, charcoal, hedgelaying and to make wattle hurdles.
This work allows light to penetrate to the woodland floor, enabling many wild plants to flower. The spring displays of bluebells, wood anemone, wood sorrel, sanicle, violet and primrose can be spectacular.
The edges of the rides continue to provide colour throughout the summer with common spotted, early purple and greater butterfly orchids, hemp agrimony and betony. These in turn are nectar sites for a profusion of butterflies peaking in July and August. Silver-washed fritillary and white admiral are the most spectacular; meadow brown, gatekeeper and peacock the most numerous. The different stages of understorey regrowth provide a succession of homes for woodland songsters.Silver-Washed Fritilary Dawn in May is the best time to hear willow warblers, blackcap, chiffchaff and garden warblers. In winter mixed flocks of nuthatches, tits, and treecreepers move noisily through the wood and woodcock can be flushed from wet, muddy areas.
The tree cover is mostly oak canopy and hazel understorey but many other species are found. Two uncommon trees of Wiltshire found in the wood are small leaved lime and wild service tree. Both are indicative of ancient woodland and both enhance the fantastic autumn display of colour. The hut in the middle of the wood was built in the 1930s as shelter for participants of Boxing Day shoots and auction sales of coppice blocks.
A walk round Ravensroost shows how woods would have looked for hundreds of years. The Trust will continue the stewardship of the site to perpetuate the wildlife interest and history of this beautiful place.
Location:Take the B4696 Ashton Keynes road north from Wootton Bassett. After two miles take the second turn left to Minety. Go straight on when the main road turns sharp right. Go straight over the next crossroads and Ravensroost Wood car park is one the right after 1/4 mile.
Best times to visit: May for peak bird activity and spring flowers; July for peak butterfly numbers.
Habitats:Woodland, both coppice and high oak forest., and ponds.
Specialities of the reserve: Ancient woodland with associated rare plants, good butterfly population and a variety of birds, especially warblers.
Shelter on the reserve:The Shooting Hut, 1/4 mile from car park on main ride.
Nearest public toilets: On Queen Street next to Braydon Church, one mile away.
Nearest hospital casualty department: Princess Margaret Hospital, Swindon
Nearby WWT nature reserves: Wildflower hay meadows at Distillery Farm lie just to the north east of the site, Avis Meadow to the south east.
Parking: Parking for 5-6 cars in the car park. OS map ref SU023 877. OS Map Landranger 73 Swindon, Devizes and Surrounding area.