Woodlands and nature reserves

Northaw Great Wood

This extensive nature reserve is one of Hertfordshire's largest remaining historic wood pasture commons and comprises open bracken glades and wide rides with oak, hornbeam and birch woodland. Entrances for pedestrians are off Carbone Hill and The Ridgeway in Cuffley. The entrance to the car park is on The Ridgeway.

Northaw Great Wood

The wood was once an enormous area of common land stretching across most of the parish of Northaw. It would have been used to graze livestock, gather wood fuel and feed pigs. Its importance to biodiversity, therefore, lies in its history as wood pasture common - not as woodland.

In the 1950s and 60s it had populations of open woodland habitat birds, such as nightingale, tree pipit, wood warbler and redstart. Canopy closure and global warming has led to a complete disappearance of these birds as breeding species in Hertfordshire. However, many visitors still come to enjoy the trails, the spectacular autumn colour and the chance of seeing a wide range of woodland wild life, including fungi and butterflies.

Access is off The Ridgeway, Cuffley. Additional facilities include a large car park and toilets, which close at 5pm in the winter and 6pm in the summer.

Oak Processionary Moth Update

Oak Processionary Moth (OPM) are pests of Oak trees and were accidentally introduced into the UK in 2005. The caterpillars, nests and moths can present a hazard to human and animal health and should be avoided when seen, the council and forestry comission should be notfiied too. Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council is controlling the pest by removing or spraying nests to limit the spread of OPM. Exposure to the nests or caterpillars can cause itching and a rash with symptoms varying between individuals. As the name suggests the caterpillars are usually but not exclusively found on Oak trees.

A group of caterpillars have been spotted within the Northaw Great Wood and vistiors are advised to excercise caution during their visits. Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council are working with the forestry comission to identify and remove the pests found within the woodland. 

More information on how to indentify the caterpillars and their nests can be found on the forest research website.

The council can be notified of any sightings of the pest by contacting via email at contact-whc@welhat.gov.uk or by telephone on 01707 357 000

Woodland Management Update

Between 2005 and 2012, rhododendron has been removed from the wood, leaving only a small area around the car park.  Rhododendron is an invasive non-native shrub that smothers the growth of all other woodland vegetation. Over 12 hectares of woodland have now been restored to open glades where heather and other rare plants of heath and wood pasture have regenerated from buried seed.

Several of the main tracks in the wood have been substantially widened, by felling trees.  This has let in sunshine and encouraged a much wider variety of ground vegetation to regenerate, providing good wildlife habitat especially for woodland birds and butterflies.

Parts of the restored glades and tracks are cut with tractor and flail once a year.  This helps prevent new trees and scrub growing in these areas and encourages small woodland plants to survive that would otherwise be smothered by overgrowth.

During the winter 2018, contractors have coppiced another section of the hedge next to the School Camp.  Although it looks bare at the moment, the stumps will soon re-grow and become thick like the sections cut in previous years.  Firewood will be brought up to the stacking area ready for sale when the tracks have dried out.

Contractors have restored two more of the Victorian 'rides' by selectively felling some of the lager trees and cutting back the younger scrub at the sides. This work has taken place at the east end of the wood and on the north-west corner. Hornbeams have been coppiced and pollarded along Cuffley Brook to give some of the older trees a new lease of life.

The Friends of Northaw Great Wood have continued to coppice small trees, particularly birch along the edges of Trails. This encourages a range of growth and provides different habitat for wildlife. The Friends always welcome new members to the group so if you have time to spare please contact us for more information.