Swiss Garden Woodland
One of the many perks of my job is getting to spend the summer carrying out habitat and species surveys on a range of Local Wildlife Sites in Bedfordshire. This summer, one of the sites I visited was Swiss Garden Woodland LWS and I wanted to mention this in particular because the woodland is a classic example of why these sites are so important at protecting species at the local level.
Recognised as a LWS for its high quality wet woodland, the woodland is host to some rare ferns in Bedfordshire, such as scaly male fern Dryopteris affininis, hard shield fern Polystichum aculeatum and soft shield fern Polystichum setiferum, plus a hybrid Polystichum setiferum x aculeatum = P. x bicknellii between the latter two.
LWS fill an important gap not covered by other designations and provide the vital stepping stones and highways needed to build our Living Landscape
These ferns are largely restricted to a handful of LWS in Bedfordshire, and the hybrid is only known to occur here. The reason for this is that the hard and soft shield ferns have different habitat requirements and it is unusual to find them growing so close together where it makes it possible for them to hybridise. Without Local Wildlife Sites, many species would be lost from the Bedfordshire countryside and these ferns are just a few examples of those rare species that depend on LWS for their survival.
LWS are vital at filling the gap not covered by other designations, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). This is because whilst SSSIs will protect a sub-set of the very best wildlife in the UK, this designation does not protect wildlife at a local level, and cannot ensure that the countryside as a whole is rich in wildlife, whereas LWS can provide that function. LWS fill an important gap not covered by other designations and provide the vital stepping stones and highways needed to build our Living Landscape. Swiss Garden Woodland LWS, for instance, sits within the Greensand Country Living Landscape.
Many Local Wildlife Sites are privately owned and publicly inaccessible, however, this one is not. To visit to see the rare ferns and other wildlife, and find more details on entry fees and opening times please go to the Swiss Garden website.