A Very Muddy Brampton Wood

path at Brampton Wood by Aidan Matthews 

West Cambs reserves manager Aidan Matthews reflects on the implications of muddy conditions underfoot at Brampton Wood

Brampton Wood is extremely popular in normal years - and this year is anything but normal. With many more people seeking to find local places to exercise with space away from other folks, we have been glad to see they have found and enjoy the quiet peace within Brampton Wood. With several miles of paths and rides it’s easy to see the attraction and the opportunities to witness the fantastic wildlife within the woodland habitat have been enjoyed by many new visitors throughout 2020, from the days of Lockdown 1 in spring, through the warmth of summer and into the autumn after our closure for site management works in September and October.

As winter has now taken hold we are witnessing a normal increase in the wetness of the site, but the added footfall has exacerbated the normal churning of the path surfaces and lead to some areas becoming quite boggy. With the crossing points for the machinery involved in our annual woodland management this year, we had originally closed down the paths affected and hoped to reopen them once works were done. However, we had more damage to the path surface than acceptable for foot traffic to cope with and had to leave them closed for several more weeks. This effectively led to users having to take huge diversions around the site to access the western end or make their way back to the site car park, and not everyone was keen on this option and used the broken up ground to take a shortcut.

Trudging through sticking mud up to 20cm deep is not for the fainthearted and sticks and logs become lethal slip hazards instead of safe supports. Whilst we appreciate that visitors want to see this lovely site, we don’t wish for anyone to become injured by taking a treacherous route over one of the extraction route crossings. We have now installed a couple of measures to help protect pedestrians – a temporary boardwalk has been installed over the better of the path crossings, to provide a firm surface over the broken up ground. We have also installed a couple of metal barriers to close down the worst route entirely as it is unsafe for users to attempt passage for nearly 50m of its length.


Brampton boardwalk by Aidan Matthews

Brampton boardwalk by Aidan Matthews

As winter progresses we will be monitoring the site and impact of footfall and direct users towards safer routes through further measures – cordoning off valuable wildflower areas on the main rides, installing temporary surfacing if possible or path closures. We want to avoid having to close the site, as we understand how valuable this ‘Green time’ is for people to escape the daily pressures and recuperate with a bit of quiet headspace, but the option is still there for us if we feel as though the impact is too much for this valuable site to take.

At the end of the day, our duty as the landowner is to preserve the rich wildlife for now and for future generations. Please keep track of our work and measures we are taking to look after our sites on the social media pages, support us by becoming a member and spread the word about the work we do at all of our nature reserves.