With record-breaking temperatures this spring I wasn’t the only one to enjoy a spell of sunbathing. Many of our native woodland plants were taking full advantage of the balmy weather by flowering early, including the ever-popular bluebell.

Although it’s a bit of a trek to get there, I love to escape to Foxholes nature reserve near Burford in West Oxon or, closer to home, to Sydlings Copse, just three miles north-east of Oxford. There amongst the centuries-old oak I can forget about the noise and bustle of everyday life. And although the bluebells are beginning to fade, there are lots of other reasons to enjoy ancient woodland.

Besides bluebells there are dozens of flowers that take their time to colonise a wood and provide clues about the age of the woodland. These include purple veined common wood sorrel, star-shaped wood anemone and pungent wild garlic. Worryingly, woodlands of this age are a declining habitat, partly due to clearance for agriculture and conifer plantations. Less than 20% of the total wooded area of Britain is considered ‘ancient’. This is one of the reasons I work for the Trust, to help to protect these amazing eco-systems that have been evolving since before the Gunpowder Plot!

With an abundance of nectar available from woodland flowers a number of insects are likely to catch your eye. The velvety speckled wood butterfly is one of my favourites fluttering to the flowering grasses in dappled shade. You can also see bumblebee queens searching for a suitable nesting site to start up a new colony and countless insects are living in crevices of fallen branches and under leaf litter.

If I close my eyes just for a moment I like to focus on the sounds of an ancient woodland. At Foxholes spring migrants such as chiffchaffs, willow warblers and blackcaps along with residents such as great spotted woodpecker, treecreeper and nuthatch are taking advantage of the insects readily available and are making themselves known. Wherever you take a stroll, this is the time of year when birds are singing their hearts out and the dawn chorus is reaching its crescendo. In the fading light at Foxholes or Sydlings Copse I often hear a tawny owl calling to its mate and catch sight of bats zipping past, hunting for insects on the wing. The tiniest of crevices in the bark of an old oak or ash can accommodate tens of bats, which makes stately trees even more important to conserve.

For my day job I am lucky enough to work with a team of people who care for woodlands. In the spring I am helping to keep the paths clear for visitors when they might become overgrown. We will only carry out tree work during the winter months, such as creating open scallops along a path or ride or maintaining the openness of a glade. These habitat edges provide more variation within a woodland, which in turn benefits a wider range of species.

We also might fell some selected trees to let more light in to encourage neighbouring trees to grow larger. Dead wood is left where it falls, rotting down to provide a crucial feeding ground for many fungi species, which in turn creates nutrients for the trees themselves.

For more information about Wildlife Trust woodland nature reserves across Oxfordshire, spring events, volunteering opportunities and our latest news please visit www.bbowt.org.uk.