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There are 4 main layers within a wood: tall mature trees, shrubs, low growing plants and leaf litter.
Hundreds of years ago, the harbour would have been surrounded by oak woodland coming right down to the shore.
Today there are only a few areas of this ancient oak woodland left around the harbour but they form an important and attractive part of the landscape.
Near Chichester Marina there is a small area of ancient woodland. It is owned by the local farmer.
The tallest trees are old mature oaks. Oaks support a huge variety of species ranging from tiny wasps that cause swellings to form on the leaves, to caterpillars which eat large quantities of leaves, to mammals such as squirrels which eat the acorns. They also provide nest sites for birds. Other tall trees include ash. Birds include greenfinch, blue tit, great tit, great spotted woodpecker, chiff chaff, chaffinch, and blackbird .
The shrub layer consists mainly of hazel trees, which are coppiced. This means a small area of them is cut down to the stump in the autumn. The stump then sends up new shoots, which are allowed to grow for 10 years before being cut again. A different area of the copse is cut each year and this creates many different habitats within the wood. Woodland flowers like the areas that have been recently cut because the sunlight is able to get to the woodland floor. Birds such as finches and tits like the older trees, and blackcap prefer the shrub layer
In olden times the cut branches would have been used for many things such as firewood, fences or woven into panels for the walls of houses. Today they are used for wooden stakes and to fence the woodland.
Other shrubs include wild honeysuckle, brambles and holly. The animals that live here include spiders, caterpillars and butterflies.
Most woodland plants flower in the spring before the new leaves on the trees shut out most of the light. Bluebells carpet the woodland floor in May. Although bluebell woods are relatively common in this country, worldwide they are a rare habitat. There are also orchids such as the early purple orchid and other more common species such as bugle, primroses, nettles and violets.
The plants are important to butterflies as food sources for caterpillars and nectar for butterflies. Species include speckled wood, small tortoiseshell and peacock.
This layer is formed from all the leaves that fall off the trees in the autumn and is nature’s way of recycling the nutrients from the leaves back into the soil to feed the trees and plants.
There are many small creatures which live in and under the soil which help in the recycling process. Worms live underground and drag dead leaves down helping to fertilise the soil. Woodlice eat dead and decaying plant matter.
Other creatures include centipede, millipede, spiders, moles, wood mice, voles, fox and deer.
Rising sea levels and coastal erosion are washing away the soil from the trees next to the shore. Once sea water washes on to the roots of the oak trees they may die.
The footpaths go round edges of the wood so that walkers can enjoy the wood without trampling the plants or disturbing the animals who live there.