Location Spotlight: Wilsey Woods
When you’re bombing it down the A30 into deepest Cornwall you are guaranteed to pass Wilsey Down Forest. It is situated near Altarnun and borders the edge of Bodmin Moor. The dark, foreboding mass of trees is bound to make you wary – something only an evergreen forest can accomplish.
With war looming on the horizon at the beginning of the 20th Century, Britain could no longer rely on timber imports. Woodland resources in England covered just 5% of land area by 1917, due to demands during the First World War (especially trench warfare). In 1919 the Forestry Act came into force and Conifer plantations like Wilsey Down were established to ensure a strategic reserve of timber. It is unfortunate that many of the ancient broadleaved woodland areas around England were cleared to make way for the faster-growing Conifer trees.
Whilst some plantations are gradually being replanted with native species, Wilsey Down remains as a fascinating stretch of woodland to amble through and explore. The interior of evergreen plantations have a tendency to be dry dead places, due to the needles blocking out light and suffocating the forest floor. This forest is the complete opposite, with an endless carpet of moss creeping over everything, including up the trunks of trees.
As with any natural area, people have come and made it their own. The woods are scattered with survival lean-to shelters carefully designed to keep out the elements. The photo below has a heat reflection wall to bounce the heat back inside the shelter… Though I have never seen anyone actually sleeping in one.
Even the odd piece of litter is absorbed into the forest and quickly becomes something special. This glass bottle has turned into a tiny biome, complete with plants growing inside it.