Ardan Wood is the first site the Trust acquired which is an existing mature broadleaf woodland, and is potentially also an Ancient Woodland site, with tentative clues that it was present during the time of the Down survey (completed in 1658), potentially making it over 350 years old.
The wood is a seven acre horseshoe shaped site west of Tyrrellspass in Westmeath, and is in the main, a sloped site with varying aspect. It is currently believed the site is on the sides of a flat topped drumlin, and is near important esker woodlands. There is a very varied range of species of tree and shrub on the site - at last count, there are 20 different species!
Pedunculate Oak is the dominant species on the site, and forms most of the canopy. Holly, hazel, spindle, bramble and roses make up most of the understorey shrubs, but we have recorded scarcer species such as buckthorn, wild crab apple, wild privet and Irish whitebeams.Ground flora includes bluebells, enchanter's nightshade, early purple orchid, yellow pimpernel, wild strawberry, and wood anemone, and there is a strong presence of fungi, lichen and moss; this is largely due to a large amount of dead and decaying wood on the site; it does not appear that there has been any concerted effort to remove dead wood in decades. A Duchas report concluded that the site may have been planted originally, but is now nearly indistinguishable from natural woodland. A 2002 report compiled for the construction of the N6, which runs nearby to the north, commented 'This pNHA (proposed Natural Heritage Area) is of National Importance.'
The site is clearly visible on the original 25 inch OS survey of Ireland, carried out in the 1830s and 40s, and as such qualifies as 'long established woodland'; it shows many signs of age, including an extensive ground flora, including plants such as pink anemone, which is a rare plant and considered an ancient woodland indicator.
It is also home to a established badger colony, with many entrances to an active badger sett; as yet we do not know the full extent of this sett. Common and Soprano Pipistrelle bats have been recorded on the site too, with plenty of potential bat roosting sites in the trees. It is the trust's intention to have the site properly surveyed, as we believe this previously forgotten gem will throw up many examples of flora and hopefully fauna which use it as a refuge.
From 'A preliminary report on areas of scientific interest in County Westmeath', by Roger Goodwillie, An Foras Forbartha, 1972, this PDF from the NPWS website demonstrates that this site was already considered to be of importance 40 years ago.
Below you can see a small preview of the article about Ardan Wood from the upcoming issue of our magazine, Woodlands. If you wish to receive this magazine, all members of the trust receive this quarterly magazine as one of the perks of membership!