St Catherine’s Wood
St Catherine’s Wood, 18 hectares of mixed woodland is one of the largest in Jersey. Although parts of the site are still in private hands, the owners have granted public access, making it essential that the area is treated with respect.
A stream running through the valley floor has helped develop a wide-range of habitats within the woodland. This constant flow of water culminates in a small reservoir (Le Maseline) built during the German Occupation.
The Human History
There are few records of past land use and management within the Wood although the hunter gatherers of pre-history may well have used the area. During the German Occupation (1940 – 1945) much of Jersey’s woodland was felled and the timber used to for fuel and for building. By 1944, Island fuel supplies were exhausted and few trees were spared as the need for cooking and heating fuel grew. It is estimated that around 200,000 trees were lost during this short period. St Catherine’s wood suffered somewhat less than other areas although hundreds of trees were felled. Occasionally some areas of the reserve may be cordoned off to protect sensitive sites whilst conservation work is in progress.
The footpaths leading through the woodland edged with wild flowers. Bluebells, Wood Sorrel, Wild Daffodils, Greater Stitchwort and Celandine can be found in spring and later, as the sun gains a little warmth, herb Robert, Red Campion, Foxglove and Spurge continue the woodland colour scheme. Ivy is prolific in the wood, both on the ground and on the trunks of trees. Contrary to popular belief, ivy is not a parasitic plant, it sends down roots like any other tree or shrub. Its thick foliage provides cover, nest sites and food for birds, mammals and insects.
For the bird watcher, the wood presents a particular delight. It is home to the Great-spotted Woodpecker, Short-toed Treecreeper, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk plus a variety of smaller songbirds such as Blackcap, Chiff Chaff and Willow Warbler. The highlight of the woodland’s mammal population is the Red Squirrel. There are no Grey Squirrels in Jersey so if you see a squirrel, it will be this species. Rabbit, Wood Mouse, Common Shrew and Hedgehog share the undergrowth and root systems of the woodland floor. Fish too share the habitat. There are Brook Trout and Common eels in the stream and the reservoir is stocked with Mirror Common and Crucian carp.