Updated: Nov 14, 2020
I was in two minds whether to write this blog post, as I wanted to keep this piece of Hidden Wiltshire all to myself. Oysters Coppice is a wonderful little woodland that is well off the beaten track and can be the starting point of many interesting walks in the Vale of Wardour.
I first visited the Coppice in March 2019, when the volunteer warden for this Wiltshire Wildlife Trust reserve, Debbie Carter, was kind enough to give me a guided tour. At the time there had been heavy rainfall, and the walk was very muddy and boggy with rising springs conspiring with the rains to provide small streams running down some of the paths. The dampness made the bark and mosses glisten in the light, and really gave the place some character. The wood is on a slope, which makes the circular walk around it dramatic, and it definitely strengthens the lungs as you walk up the hills.
In March, there was an abundance of wild daffodils, an increasingly rare sight in England. This alone makes it worthy of a visit. When I returned at the end of April, the wood had mostly dried up on the main paths and the whole coppice had become a sea of bluebells and wild garlic. There was blue as far as the eye could see, except for some pockets where the ramsoms had taken over.
There is plenty of wildlife here too. Dotted around the wood are 52 wooden boxes which are home to dormice. Debbie monitors the population of these wonderful creatures which make Oysters Coppice their home. As well as that is what I can only describe as the biggest badger set I have ever seen in a bank next to a stream. At the top near the entrance is a pond where newts and frogs thrive, and all around the wood as you walk through you will hear birdsong.
(NB - Dormice are protected species so under no circumstances look in the boxes if you find one. You need a dormouse licence to do this)
Oysters Coppice is an ancient woodland. In 1572 it was probably part of Gutch Common given to Lord Arundell by Queen Elizabeth the first. It was shown on the tithe map of 1839 but was felled in the 1950s and completely replanted so the wood does feel relatively young. In 1976, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust leased the land to manage the coppice, but they eventually purchased it in 1995. A team of local volunteers work in the wood to keep it in good shape for people like us to visit and enjoy.
The coppice can be found in Gutch Common near Semley. A leaflet with further information can be downloaded here: Oysters Coppice.