The Redlake Valley Community Benefit Society has occasionally carried out some light thinning of oak trees in its two Brineddin Wood quillets – especially weak specimens – to let light in and encourage a richer shrub layer and ground flora, which in turn will increase invertebrate and bird life. Sometimes felled oaks will regenerate from the stool (stump), particularly if no older than 70 years of age, but if not, replacement is the alternative means of ensuring succession. In this case, in a small clearing created at the top of the rustic steps, two young oaks have been planted, grown from acorns of Quercus robur, the Pedunculate (or English) Oak. The oaks in Brineddin are all Quercus petraea, the Sessile Oak, so-named because unlike Q. robur, the acorns do not have a stem and sit directly on the twig. These ‘invaders’, grown from Hampshire acorns – are a small experiment to see if they thrive here.
Generally, Q petraea grows at higher altitudes in thinner soil, while Q. robur thrives in richer soil at a lower altitude, but their ranges overlap and hybrids of the two species occur. In the very long term, it may be that climate change enables Q. robur to naturally extend its range uphill at the expense of Q. petraea. In this instance, we’re hoping to give these two a helping hand.