Column: It’s starting to feel like spring

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It’s starting to feel like spring is on its way. We’ve had the snowdrops, and now we’re seeing daffodils.

However, it’s only if you’re lucky that you will find patches of our native species, as cross- pollination with the garden daffodil threatens to wipe it out. Smaller than the garden variety, its bright yellow trumpet really stands out against the paler yellow petals. You may still spot them brightening up areas of ancient woodland where they are insulated from garden escapees.

Our ancient woodlands offer us a rare opportunity to step back in time and see the spring as our ancestors did. Deep inside their boundaries, the modern world falls away and it’s easy to imagine yourself back in time. The noise of the city is dimmed, but the woods are far from silent; as the denizens of the dark wood begin their spring mating rituals, the tree canopy is alive with birdsong. From the first flush of emerald green leaves to the froth of blossom, here will you find plants that are referred to as ‘indicator species’; these plants are less common outside ancient woodland, because they take a long time to colonise or because they have evolved to need the conditions which centuries of stable woodland cover has provided.

The pretty white petals of the wood anemone are one such indicator. Our native bluebells are another.

Nothing quite says spring is here like a stroll through the bluebells; in a few weeks’ time a beautiful carpet of native bluebells will start to reappear in Smithy Wood, like they have done for centuries.

Ancient woodlands like this really do support so much wildlife; hundreds of different species of birds, animals, plants and fungi. And it’s impossible to replace. No amount of new tree planting can replace the ecology built up over such a long period of time. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Irreplaceable ancient woodland and local wildlife should be protected and not destroyed. Smithy Wood in Chapeltown is an ancient woodland in Sheffield’s green belt that will soon be awash with bluebells, but is under threat from a planning application to build a major motorway service area.

Surely it should be protected for the benefit of local people, so our children get their chance to wonder about what stories these ancient trees could tell.

Many of you agree, judging by the successful protest organised by Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust at the weekend. The good news is, you can still help save this precious green space by writing to your local councillor. See Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust for information.