Spring woods: briny woods and salt marsh on the Droitwich Canal – South West

Learn about Droitwich’s salty history on a unique woodland walk this spring

Andrew Batram

 

The Droitwich Canal reopened in 2011 after decades of dereliction, and takes its name from the spa town of Droitwich, which is surrounded by enclaves of green. One of these is Droitwich Community Woods, which follows the canal and includes small sections of salt marshes. It’s the salt in the area that led to the canal being built in the first place: Droitwich’s natural brine springs have been used to produce salt since the Roman era. In the 1700s, production of salt increased and a canal was required to aid transportation. Engineer James Brindley was appointed to survey the route and work on the canal started in 1768. The first canal opened in 1771 and this was joined in 1854 by a further cutting, connecting what was then called the Droitwich Junction Canal to the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Hanbury. Following the end of salt production, the canals closed in 1939 and lay dormant until their recent rebirth.

Droitwich Community Wood is located to the west of Droitwich Spa, close to the River Salwarpe and the canal. Once used for salt extraction, it is now run as a nature reserve by Wychavon District Council in partnership with Worcestershire Wildlife Trust. “As well as the saline plant communities, the nature reserve also has areas of meadows and woodland with the canal and River Salwarpe passing through it,” explains Dominique Cragg, the reserves officer for Droitwich Community Woods. “A nature trail leads visitors through the reserve, where they can expect to see a range of wildlife throughout the seasons. During spring, butterflies like brimstone and orange-tip start to emerge to feed on spring flowers, such as cuckoo-flower.”

At other times of year, long-tailed tits, blue tits and nuthatches can be seen moving through the landscape searching for food, and you might also spot a bullfinch or goldfinch. In summer, you are likely to see damselfly and dragonfly, such as emperor, southern hawker and banded demoiselle, while autumn is a good time to spot fungi, from candlesnuff and wood blewit to the giant puffball.