The Acorn Trail
What to see in Scadbury
Scadbury Park has been managed as a country estate for many centuries and although there is no longer a grand house here, it remains home to many plants and animals whose ancestors lived here, and ancient trees which have been growing at Scadbury for hundreds of years. Some of these you will be able to see on the way around the nature trail, indicated by posts. Others may be anywhere in the park and are shown in some of the pictures. How many can you spot, including the male stag beetle pictured right?
How to get around
The Acorn Nature Trail is marked by 20 numbered posts (see inside leaflet). It is about 2.5 miles long and may be muddy at times, with steps and kissing gates as shown overleaf. There are some gradients of more than 1:5 (20 %). Much of Scadbury is a working farm. Please follow the Country Code, keep to the footpaths and remove your dog waste. Cycling, horse riding and fishing are not allowed. Scadbury Park Nature Reserve By-Laws apply.
The information below is taken from a leaflet produced for the Acorn Walk around Scadbury. You can download a copy of the leaflet here...
Starting at the Old Perry Street Car Park, look for the posts numbered 1 to 20. See the descriptions below:
In front of you is a very old oak tree, probably alive when Queen Elizabeth I visited here in 1597. In spring and summer you can hear birds called chiff-chaffs which visit to breed at this time of year and can easily be recognised by their call, 'chiffchaff'. As you pass the pond, look for red staining on the trunk of the ash tree, caused by the alga Trentepohlia.
At the start of the walkway the sands and pebbles of the well-drained Blackheath Beds give way to silty valley soils, very wet in winter. Many of the plants growing here can tolerate waterlogged conditions, e.g. alder trees, which get some of their food from nitrogen-fixing bacteria living in nodules in their roots.
Leaving the damp soils of the valley you start the climb back onto the drier soils derived from the Blackheath Beds.
In front of you is coppiced sycamore; cut to ground level every 10-15 years, it allows enough light in spring for a carpet of bluebells.
There are many yew trees here. These poisonous conifer trees may be male or female. In spring both have small flowers, but only the female trees have red fruits in autumn. Beside the path are mosses at their best in spring when there is enough water to allow them to reproduce and form spores in capsules, usually at the tips of slender fruiting bodies.
Near this post are many young birch trees.
These are shortlived, early colonizers, which die as slower growing trees become established.
They are often killed by a bracket fungus called birch polypore.
The oak trees on either side of the path are more than 400 years old. In the past when some of the estate was managed as parkland many of the oaks grew straight and tall in open pasture land and their valuable timber was harvested for shipbuilding. Hundreds of species of plants, animals and some fungi depend on oak trees for their survival.
Near this post, dead wood is home to invertebrates, microscopic animals and fungi many of which breakdown wood, returning plant food to the soil.
To the right of the path there are ivy-covered oak and ash trees. Ivy anchors itself to trees, it is not a parasite. It provides nesting sites for birds, roosting sites for bats and a home for caterpillars of the holly blue butterfly, which eat the flower buds. Ivy flowers are a good source of nectar for insects late in the year, the berries are eaten by birds in the winter.
To the left of the path is a lot of male fern. Ferns are thought to have evolved millions of years ago- many forms were living at the time of the dinosaurs. They spread as tiny spores released from the underside of the fronds in autumn.
This pond is surrounded by Japanese knotweed, an invasive species which is very difficult to get rid of.
Its matted roots, fast growth and the deep shade it casts stop other plants from living here.
The ruins you can see are the remains of the manor house built by the Walsingham family in the 15th and 16th centuries. Edmund Walsingham was the Lieutenant of the Tower of London in Henry VIII’s time and responsible for prisoners including Ann Boleyn, Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More. His grandson, Thomas, was a patron of the playwright Christopher Marlowe and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I when she visited Scadbury.
The path turns left here and goes through an avenue of English oak trees.
Note the long stalked acorns and very short leaf stalks which are different from the other native oak tree, the sessile oak.
On either side of the path are old fruit trees, remnants of the orchards that were removed in 1971.
In the summer many butterflies drink nectar from blackberry and thistle flowers growing here. Look for tunnels in the blackberry leaves made by the larvae of a leaf miner moth.
In this part of the park you can often see and hear noisy green ring-necked parakeets. A recent introduction, they are breeding here and increasing in numbers.
This may be causing problems for less aggressive hole nesting birds like the lesser spotted woodpeckers.
You are now in Little Wood. This is probably ancient woodland because it has some species growing in it associated with this habitat such as bluebells, yellow archangel and wood anemones.
Many different plants and minibeasts live in the meadows providing food for birds, bats, mice and shrews. Look for cuckoo spit protecting froghopper nymphs and later in the summer, field scabious and cocoons of 5-spot burnet moths.
Turn right here and as you walk up the hill you can see a new hedge of different native species planted on your right. It includes dogwood, field maple, guelder rose and hawthorn.
As you look back down the hill there is a slightly older mixed hedge on your left. Look for blackthorn, a thorny hedge plant with pretty white flowers in
There are many big sweet chestnut trees around the picnic area and on the far side you can see the grey/white leaves of grey poplar.
Sheep’s sorrel to the right of the path indicates that you are once more on the poor acid soils of the Blackheath beds.
The nettles and elder growing here suggest the soil has high levels of the plant foods nitrate and phosphate. Elder bark often supports lichens, which are made up of a fungus and an alga living together. Can you find any?