Polstead is rich in wildlife habitat and contains several areas of ancient woodland, many species-rich hedgerows and even semi-improved grassland sites. Many of these are designated as County Wildlife Sites looked after by their respective landholders but appear subject to very little active management.
The predominant woodland type in the parish is Ash-Maple with pockets of small-leaved lime to both woods and hedgerows. Of note (although undesignated) is Dollops Wood which is one of the finest ‘Bluebell' woods in the area and which also contains a significant stand of stored Alder coppice to its boggy areas. It is well served by public footpaths and contains badgers, bats and a rich bird life including both Lesser and Great spotted woodpecker, Tree-creeper, Nuthatch and breeding Nightingale to areas of scrub in most years.
Species-rich hedgerows are present throughout the parish, and many contain ancient pollards and coppice stools; one hedge is recorded as 800 years old, although several others are likely to be just as ancient. It is rumoured that some of our hedgerows to the north of the parish contain dormice following recent Suffolk Wildlife Trust surveys.
An abandoned allotment has been designated a local wildlife site and is now dominated by rough grassland habitat with scattered scrub. As well as the expected small mammals and nesting birds, this small site has Common lizard, Slow-worm, Grass snake, Common toad, Smooth newt and Common frog recorded here. Management consists largely of removing colonizing tree saplings from the nearby hedgerow to transplant elsewhere within the village or to Cherry Wood, the community woodland.
Situated in Stoke by Nayland, the Community Woodland - Cherry Wood - is a partnership with 2 other parishes (Stoke by Nayland and Leavenheath) and is managed by a local steering group under the auspices of the Green Light Trust. It consists of an old abandoned cherry orchard with adjoining meadows, pond and newly-planted woodland area. The steering group advertises the site and its wildlife on the village notice-boards, local shops and the Community Newsletter, and encourages people to come along to work-parties and events days. (Information leaflets are available in Stoke by Nayland church)
The Polstead Church Council has this year agreed to allow part of St Mary's churchyard to be managed for its wildflowers with an annual cut and removal of new 'arisings', instead of the usual continual mowing. As with many church grasslands this site is a rich pocket of biodiversity and contains Cowslips, Primroses, Oxeye daisy and Birds-foot Trefoil to name but a few of over 70 species recorded to date. Wildflowers in Polstead Churchyard
In 2008, planting took place of 5 “Polstead Black” cherry trees, a variety local to the village. These saplings originated as grafts from one of the very few mature examples remaining in the village. It is hoped this will safeguard the future of this ‘famous' variety, and they have been planted to areas with public accessibility. Cherry Tree Planting
Polstead is currently undertaking a Parish Hedgerow Survey as part of the wider Suffolk Hedgerow Survey. The survey has been running for several years but Polstead is a large parish with many species-rich hedgerows and is likely to run for a few more yet! The results so far can be seen on a wall map in the ‘Quiet Room' of the Village Hall.
Contact: Richard Kilshaw on 01206 262008 email