Introducing the Hub!

Aside from the swamp project, there are other exciting things going on at Heartwood. Anyone who’s recently visited the site will have seen a peculiar structure in the car park. This will become the new welcome hub, an area for visitors to gain all the information they need to get the most out of their visit to Heartwood.

Whether it’s a history lesson on how the site was established, inspiration for something to do, or what the plans are for the future of Heartwood, you’ll be able to find out all you need to know here. In addition, there will be three self-guided trails that begin at the welcome hub. Soon, there will also be a sculpture trail for children to enjoy, so be sure to get involved once the plans have been finalised.

Construction of the hub has been completed; all that’s left to do is put the visitor information in the frames. The hub should be in full operation by the end of October, so keep an eye out!


The welcome hub brought to life

As many of you are aware, the Save Our Bluebell (SOB) campaign was a huge success. Volunteers spoke to hundreds of visitors who provided much needed information about their experiences at the site. Of the 202 visitors who completed the questionnaire, 92% would be very sad to see the loss of more bluebells at the site. The main reasons for visits to Heartwood included walking in the woods with family and seeing the bluebells and other wildflowers. It is clear just how important the bluebells are to visitors at Heartwood. Whether walking the dogs or just taking a stroll, literally hundreds of us like to see the vivid violet of our native bluebells. I know I would be horrified to see such a beautiful part of our heritage disappear.

Here are some of the comments received through the questionnaires.

  • “We are blessed to have such a wonderful wood.”
  • “A great place that needs to be cared for and the Woodland Trust are doing just that.”
  • “We think it’s a privilege to live nearby to see the wild flowers.”
  • “Beware of other management. Use education rather than physical notices, develop a dialogue.”
  • “Thank you for the friendly help and information and allowing access to beautiful bluebells.”
  • “Wish to see people continue to walk through bluebells but would like to see them protected.”
  • “We love the views and the whole area.”
  • “Fence it off for twenty years! We must protect it for the future.”
  • “Fabulous to see the signs encouraging us to keep to the managed path – well done!”
  • “Keep up the fantastic work!”

The SOB campaign allows us to raise awareness about the endangered bluebells, as well as hear what the public has to say about site, both positive comments and constructive ideas for improvement.  There will be another “Save Our Bluebells” campaign next year, so anyone who didn’t get involved can do so in a year’s time when the bluebells are back.

After such a successful campaign, here’s to future projects at Heartwood. Keep an eye out for the new hub in the car park, where visitors will be able to access all sorts of information about the site and events occurring there. There is also the swamp habitat that’s currently being worked on, which will make the site an even more valuable habitat for wildlife.

The Heartwood Swamp

Recently, there have been exciting developments in Heartwood for the creation of a new swamp habitat, to attract different wildlife to the site. Although Heartwood has great areas of woodland, it is lacking in any kind of wetland habitat. Habitats such as these are difficult to establish if not already partially present, so volunteers were on the look out for possible areas where a swamp could be successful.

The farmers that previously owned the land had avoided working on a certain patch alongside the Hertfordshire way, above the orchard. The soil in this area was unusable for growing crops due to its moisture. Woodland Trust volunteers have been carrying out surveys here to see if it would be suitable ground for a swamp. The surveys included measurements of water levels and the direction in which the water enters the area. Retired hydrologist Gordon Spoor lent a hand in the surveys, and has written a report on his findings:

Heartwood. Potential water level variation

There has been discussion on how the water in the swamp could be maintained for a longer period of time throughout the year, ultimately creating a swamp habitat. In August of this year, the area was excavated by a contractor, who carried out ‘scrapes’ that, if successful, will hold water during certain times of the year, predominantly winter. This, along with the contours that the scrapes have been made with, will hopefully mean that Heartwood will be better suited for wildlife species that inhabit aquatic habitats.


Carrying out the scrapes


Site Manager Louise in the completed northern scrape area

I got in contact with Brian Legg, who’s been a big part of the project. Here’s what he had to say about the progress so far:

Several years ago Albert Callewaert, one of our volunteers noticed that an area of Heartwood flooded in the winter and wondered whether we could develop it as a wetland area. Heartwood has two small ponds, but no other wet areas so the idea was very attractive.  After consultation with land drainage experts from Silsoe College we put in 9 dip wells to a depth of 2 metres and recorded the depth of the water table through two seasons.  We found that water was within 1 m of the surface from November to May and concluded that if we made a scrape to that depth we should have an “ephemeral pond” with a free water surface for about 6 months each year.
Earlier this year Louise appointed Maydencroft Limited and in August they excavated two scrapes, one 50 x 40 m to a depth of just over a metre, and another 45 x 30 m  to a depth of 0.5 m, which we hope to become a boggy area through the winter and spring.  We will be damming a ditch that runs between the two scrapes and hope that this may extend the time that they stay wet.
Before these works were done we had already seen frogs and toads in the area, and it was visited by a heron, and a couple of mallards and mandarin ducks.  We also know from footprints that large deer, probably fallow deer, came to the water hole.
It is hard to predict how quickly wildlife will adapt to this new environment, but we expect it to develop its own wetland vegetation to complement the willow and alder trees that we have planted around it. Ephemeral ponds do not support fish, so we also expect the area to become a haven for amphibians and a wide variety of insects, and these in turn will attract insectivorous birds and bats.  There is also a chance that a few waders will call in to probe the mud for worms as they move north in their spring migration.
We are now waiting for it to rain!

The swamp project is an exciting one, and is a fantastic way to encourage even more wildlife into a flourishing natural habitat. Keep an eye on the Heartwood blog for more information!


A fantastic day was had by all those who attended Yoga Expressions, the Teen yoga event at Heartwood Forest last week.

The day started with a routine to the music Jai Ho,

20160823 Teen yoga (42 of 48)

and continued with attendees taking part in yoga sessions and other activities ranging from colouring to toasting marshmallows.

The sun didn’t stop shining all day!

20160823 Teen yoga (31 of 48)

The event, run by Clarity Studio in St Albans, was very successful so look out for other similar events in the future.

We are delighted to be able to tell you that the Purple Emperor butterfly has been spotted at Heartwood Forest. The following report was sent in by David Hunt, who took the photo shown below:

“Resisting the distant call of a cold beer, I then went on to Heartwood Forest to see if there were any White-letter Hairstreak around the regenerating elm along the southeast boundary of Well Wood. No luck. Other butterflies seen included many Gatekeeper, a couple of Meadow Brown (the reverse of the situation on Nomansland); 2 Comma, 5 Green-veined White; 1 Large White; 2 Speckled Wood (in Pudler’s Wood); 1 very tatty Ringlet; and 3 Holly Blue. Approaching the small pond at the southern tip of Well Wood I became aware of a substantial shadow flapping and gliding its way across the path. Looking up, I saw the owner – a Purple Emperor! It settled in the nearby Hornbeam tree, about 5m up, and sunned itself for a while before leaving and drifting about the adjacent oaks. I lost sight of it for a while but it then reappeared with, to my surprise, another Purple Emperor. They swooped languidly around each other a couple of times and then settled at separate locations in the foliage at the top of the tallest of the three adjacent oaks by the pond. After a couple more minutes, and not being equipped, like all good PE enthusiasts with folding chair, flask and bobble hat, I left for that cold beer I mentioned earlier. One happy bunny!”


A huge thank you to David and Butterfly Conservation (Herts and Middx Branch) for letting us know and passing on the photo.

Are you planning on coming to Countryfile Live this week? It is running at Blenheim Palace from Thursday 4th August to Sunday 7th August and the Woodland Trust will be there.

Amongst all the hustle and bustle, we will be hosting our own #TreeParty picnic in our Tipi’s. Come and say hello and try your hand at willow weaving, tree dressing, and our forest school or make some bug hotels for all the woodlice and spiders that are burrowed in your garden.

We also have games and activities for you to enjoy. We want to get you back to nature and there are plenty of ways to do it. Why not pick up one of our picnic packs and enjoy a picnic in the great outdoors?

For further details, go to:


We hope to see you there!



Do you know any teenagers who are interested in yoga? There is a yoga festival for teenagers at Heartwood Forest on the 23rd August.

For further details or to book, please go to the website http://www.yoga-expressions.info/.

Yoga festival