This part of Orwell Country Park includes the Farm - once part of Alnesborne Priory, Pond Hall Meadow - which was once grazed by cattle but now managed by hand and Pond Hall Carr – an area of wet woodland, supporting large populations of birds and fungi.
More than 100 species of birds have been recorded in the alder carr and deciduous woodland area between Pipers Vale and Pond Hall Farm alone, including Linnet, Bullfinch and Nightingale. The alder carr is a wet woodland dominated by Alder and Willow whilst the woodland at Pipers Vale is characteristic of the area being dominated by Oak, Birch, Ash and Elm.
Pond hall Farm, located in the centre of the country park, is partially a working farm, whilst the remainder has been adopted into the country park as wildlife habitat, focussing on reptiles, pollinators, and ground nesting birds such as Skylark and Lapwing. The farm connects Bridge Wood through to Pipers Vale, with the iconic Orwell Bridge stretching between the two halves of the country park. Please be considerate of the residents and animals at Pond Hall Farm and keep to the public rights of way.
Pond Hall Meadow and Carr are both wet areas, supporting a unique species assemblage of flora. Fungi and bird life. The wet conditions also make the area great for amphibians, with the small ponds scattered throughout the meadow offering breeding opportunities for both toads and frogs.
Habitats and Features
Orwell Country Park is home to a wide variety of species across the year. Discover their different habitats and at what time of the year you are most likely to encounter them.
Ancient Woodlands in England are designated as land, which have been continuously wooded since 1600 AD and contain rare or unusual species due to the low level of physical disturbance over a long period of time. Much of the ancient woodland in Bridge Wood was felled to be replaced with plantation woodland in the post-war period, though some individual trees from the original wood survive. Braziers Wood also retains ancient trees and associated species.
Heathland is a man-made habitat emerging where trees were cleared from areas with sandy, acidic and nutrient-poor soils in Southern Britain (usually for grazing) and is a priority for nature conservation as it is a rare and threatened habitat. Lowland heathland is a characteristically open landscape, dominated by low-growing, acid-tolerant vegetation such as heather, gorses and certain grasses, and is generally found below 300 metres in altitude. If uncontrolled (e.g. by cutting or grazing) seedlings such as gorse and silver birch readily establish on heathland, shading out the underlying heath vegetation.
The carr woodland in Orwell Country Park is dominated by alder and birch trees with potential for shrubs such as guelder rose, buckthorn, dog rose and brambles. The areas are characterised by damp or wet soil conditions and are shady from dense foliage and an abundance of ferns. In the past, wet woodland would have been commonplace in Britain, particularly within poorly drained river valleys. Although small in size at Orwell Country Park, the national rarity of wet woodlands in the UK makes this habitat a feature of interest for the site.
The areas of woodland across Orwell Country Park are intercepted by areas of rough grassland, providing a range of habitats for the wildlife, and areas of recreation for its users. Piper’s Vale contains important areas of acid grassland alongside the lowland heath habitats and meadowland associated with the former airport, which provides habitat for skylarks, small mammals and large populations of reptiles including grass snake and common lizard.
The Orwell estuary is of international importance for wildlife providing habitats for approximately 50,000 over-wintering geese, wading birds and fish that are attracted by the vast numbers of invertebrates living in the mudflats. The estuary includes extensive mud-flats, low cliffs, salt marsh and small areas of vegetated shingle on the lower reaches. The estuary is designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA), a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and as a Ramsar site.
Orwell Country Park is home to a wide variety of species across the year. Below is just a small selection of the many species of interest found across the site and at what time of the year you are most likely to encounter them: