Discovering Brampton Wood

Discovering Brampton Wood

Brampton Wood - Sarah Lambert

Wildlife Watch member Elizabeth tells us about studying Brampton Wood for her John Muir Award

Eight year old Elizabeth Woollam has completed her John Muir Discovery Award this year; between April and August she spent time at Brampton Woods looking for wildlife and walking with family and friends for the purposes of the award.

She also learned about John Muir - a Scot who loved nature, moved to America age 11, and later in life helped create the first National Park, took President Roosevelt camping, and is now known as a founding father of Ecology.

Brampton wood is an ancient wood and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), more than 900 years old and in the Domesday book. It's a great place to see wildlife with plenty of places where trees have fallen for bugs and beetles, creating a food chain because the birds eat the bugs and the birds of prey eat the smaller birds: Elizabeth found 80 different plants and animals.

“My favourite spot is ‘The Meadow’ where I saw lots of butterflies, bugs and beetles. I love the sound the grass makes when it’s windy. When the sun is shining all the butterflies come out, like the meadow brown with the orange dot on its wing."


“On the first survey I heard a rustle by the path. We saw three voles trying to find food, they were scuffling and squeaking. On another day my sister and I heard more snuffling; we looked in the undergrowth and saw a family of voles foraging under brambles. They were scurrying around in all directions and weren’t worried about us. I spotted signs of other mammals in the wood - fur hanging from a dead bush, small holes by the side of the path, and heard two foxes calling to each other and saw a big badger sett.”

"Next to The Meadow is ‘The Glade’ where there is a circle of logs where me and my sister made a café and drank hot chocolate and ate an apple. I used a piece of bark to carry the drinks, and there’s a branch with nobbly ends which I used for a coat hook.”


Elizabeth's father showed her how to tell the difference between midland hawthorn, common hawthorn, and the hybrid. The common hawthorn is also called ‘monogyna’ because it has one seed in its berries. Midland hawthorn has two seeds in its berries. For the hybrid, some of the berries have two seeds in, some have one seed in. They saw cuckoo flower on most of the visits and loved seeing the bluebells in flower, plus wild strawberry, honeysuckle, and the common spotted orchid and found a 54cm tall buttercup!


At the entrance of Brampton Wood, at the side of the ride the grass is left to grow long with different flowers, important for invertebrates because the nectar is their food, and provides shelter. Here the family spotted cardinal beetle, red tailed bumble bee, carder bee, early bumblebee, solitary wasps, and ground beetle, plus caterpillars (green with black heads) hanging from the large oak trees on silk webs. Elizabeth loved the butterflies and learnt to identify silver-washed fritillary, painted lady, speckled wood, ringlet, peacock, brimstone, meadow brown, red admiral, orange tip, small tortoiseshell, skippers, and the purple emperor.

“I like the meadow browns best because their colours make them look soft and friendly.”


“Small birds chirped around on the top of bushes, shrubs and trees. Sometimes they flew across our path. I loved hearing the great spotted woodpecker because I like the sound of their ‘drumming’ where they peck repeatedly on a hollow piece of wood. They do this to attract females and to keep other males away. In May, on the outskirts of the wood I heard a cuckoo calling in the distance. It was very loud and clear and sounded like its name.”

Elizabeth made a 'sound drawing' of the birds that they heard - the repeated call of a blackbird and a robin singing a chorus, and also did drawings and paintings of meadow brown butterfly, common carder bee and clover.

Having completed the award Elizabeth can now identify around 14 types of butterfly; she picked litter where she found it and enjoyed the connections made with nature and wildlife. Congratulations Elizabeth.

Have a go at identifying common species