The woodland is mainly made up of Sessile Oak, Hornbeam and Lime trees. Sessile Oak has similar leaves to the English Oak but its acorns do not have stalks appearing fastened directly to the twigs of the tree.
Hornbeam is a smooth barked tree that grows as single stemmed trees in the wood. Elsewhere it grows in multi stemmed coppice. Many trees native to France and England when cut down, re-grow. Woodland managers used this knowledge to produce straight stems of a small size. These had many purposes including fence posts, barrel staves, tool handles and in the case of Hornbeam, charcoal making. Coppicing also allows dappled light to reach the woodland floor that in turn encourages wild flowers to flourish. Look out for the Speckled Wood Butterfly fluttering in these patches of light.
Butcher’s Broom can be found growing knee high in much of the woodland. It looks a little like holly and has spiny ‘leaves’. The name comes from the use of bundles of the plant to scrub butchers’ chopping blocks. Clumps of this plant may actually be older than many of the trees in the woodland.
Look out for the sapling Wild Service Tree growing on the left of the track about half way down. This rare tree has leaves that are similar to those of a maple. The autumn fruit was used to flavour beer in Roman times. In England the fruit is known as chequers and is possibly the origin of the popular pub name.
You are not the only ones at castle Lagorce to be enjoying the clean air. All of the trees are decorated with a great variety of Lichens. These peculiar plants are actually formed by a fungus and an alga growing together and do not harm the trees in any way.
Wild Arum – Red Hot poker – Cuckoo Pint – Lords and Ladies. These are just some of the common names used for the same plant. Its shiny, arrow shaped leaves are followed by a creamy coloured, vase like flower; this in turn is replaced by a spike of orange berries that can be found in the woodland all summer long.
Have you heard the high-pitched laughter coming from the woodland? This is nothing to do with the ghosts of the castle (ask Andy!) but is the call of the Green Wood-pecker. The ‘yaffle’ call is made as the bird makes its dipping flight across the grounds. It loves digging in the many anthills, making a meal of the occupants.
As you walk in the valley woodland you will notice a change in the types of tree growing. Alder and Willow enjoy the wetter conditions. You will also notice the nice mint smell filling the air. You will find ‘nettle like’ leaves growing at ankle level. These are either Water or Cat mint and give off a gorgeous smell if you crush them.
The man-made lake is a real attraction for all of the castle visitors. You might be lucky to see a flash of azure as a King Fisher streaks across the water or hear the plop it makes as it dives in after the small fry that share the water with the larger carp.
Purple Loosestrife and Yellow Loosestrife can be found the bank side grassland as can the impressive but harmless Orb Spider.
Dragonflies and the smaller Damselflies may be found flying over the lake and small streams in the valley below the castle from May to as late as November. Dragonflies are powerful fliers that will often be seen patrolling the lake margins for food and mates. The most striking Damselfly to be found in the grounds is the fluttering Beautiful Damoselle. This has a bright emerald body and near black wings. It is most commonly spied around sunny pools in the woodland.
The Willow trees between the pool and the lake are called crack willow. All of these trees were cut down to stumps in the 1970’s and have grown to this height since. Look carefully for the parasite and seasonal decoration, Mistletoe growing in the trees’ upper branches. Grab an out of season kiss if you dare.
We hope you enjoy exploring the natural side of castle Lagorce. Please remember to take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints.