Brookings Down Wood is a 16-acre (6.5 hectare) wood, mainly broadleaf, with a few larch and Monterey pine. Hazel, hawthorn, yew, holly and elder provide the under-storey. English bluebells dominate a large area of the Wood, with a profusion of campion, foxgloves, violets and corydalis.
The Wood lies between Hannaford Road and Middlecombe Lane in Noss Mayo – map reference SX5447. There are three main entrances, all open to walkers. The main entrance is at the end of the Car Park near the tennis courts with an Information Board showing the main paths and other information; the entrance path leads to some quite steep wooden steps. There are also entrances from Hannaford Road and Middlecombe Lane, see map page 2. In dry weather the Middlecombe entrance may be suitable for some powered wheel chairs; the side gate is 1 metre wide. If the main gate is needed, contact Jeremy Spooner 01752 872602 or Chris Woodd-Walker 01752 873020 for the key. A word of warning to all visitors – the paths are steep in places and can be slippery.
The Wood was bought in January 2000 with money raised locally, donated to the Woodland Trust and leased at a peppercorn rent to the River Yealm District Association, who set up a Management Committee to run the Wood for the benefit of the local community and visitors. It is in effect our Wood and our responsibility to look after the trees, to encourage wildlife – birds, bugs and bees – so that we can all enjoy it now and for many generations in the future. We used contractors for path grading and surfacing, and hanging the entrance gates, and arborists for tackling some of the more difficult and dangerous trees. But the bulk of the work - clearing two acres of cherry laurel, planting and nurturing new trees, putting up bird and bat boxes, strimming the paths, clearing the brambles - has been and is being done by local volunteers.
The regeneration of flowers and young trees following the removal of the laurel has been remarkable. We have made brushwood and log piles to encourage invertebrates, mammals and birds, and left standing deadwood where it is safe to do so, as it provides valuable habitat. We have also planted well over 1000 native trees and shrubs with stakes and protective guards. Some of the oaks planted in 2000 are over two-and-a-half metres high. As well as oak we have planted alder, ash, sweet chestnut, lime, silver birch, field maple, wild cherry, rowan, sallow, Monterey pine, hawthorn, hazel, holly, spindle and viburnum opulus; near the two entrances from the road, there are copper beech, horse chestnut and walnut. Bramble is strimmed annually in some areas and on a 3-year rotation in others, and hand pulled or cut near young trees. We have cut the ivy on some large trees to reduce the risk of wind damage, but generally left it as it is of great benefit to insects in late summer and birds in the winter, providing food and cover.
For the next few years we plan to maintain the Wood and allow it to develop naturally, removing dangerous trees and tidying fallen trees without removing them.