Location and access
OS map ref: SK 476148 (Sheet 129)
The reserve is 1.5 km north west of Copt Oak. Access to the reserve is along a track (signposted a public right of way) which leaves the Whitwick road opposite Upper Greenhill Farm. Park in the layby off the road, approximately 1.0 km west of the M1 at Copt Oak, and walk along the track (0.75 km). Do not drive down the track, as there is no parking available at the woods, and vehicles may obstruct work parties and neighbouring landowners.
Two permissive paths were created in 2006 to enable vistors to access Timberwood Hill (Charnwood Lodge) from the reserve. One path follows the tarmac track from the entrance until it is crossed by a metal gate, at which point it turns left towards Timberwood Hill. The second path crosses the field from the public footpath towards the tarmac track.
Public transport - contact Traveline for further information www.traveline.org.uk or phone 0871 200 22 33.
We encourage visitors to use environmentally friendly forms of transport wherever possible. Most of our reserves are easily accessible by bicycle, with many close to the National Cycle Network. Please note that cycling is not permitted on the nature reserve itself.
Dogs are permitted on this reserve but only under strict control - able to bring to heel at all times.
The reserve, which covers 26.8 ha, is owned by the Trust.
History, habitats & management
In the middle ages the manor of Charley was unusual in being an isolated area of cultivated land, entirely surrounded by the remnant natural woodland and rough open grazing land known as the Waste of Charnwood. The present nature reserve is divided into three parts; Burrow Wood, Cat Hill Wood and the field between them.
Burrow Wood is an ancient woodland and the first historical records of the wood date from the mid 1500s. It is dominated by pedunculate oak, with occassional ash and sycamore. The entrance to the wood, which is now very open, once contained mature elm trees, but only a few scattered elm suckers remain. A number of non-native specimen trees can also be found dotted around the wood. The understorey is predominately rowan and holly, some specimens of which rival the oak in height and girth. The shrub layer mostly comprises hazel, but is very sparse.
Cat Hill Wood (Wood of the Wild Cats) was first documented in 1260. It has been extensively managed in the past and records show periods when the wood was cleared for cultivation. The field between the woods contains a ravine which may have been the gated entrance to the priory that was located on the site of the present Charley Hall.
Cat Hill wood is also dominated by pedunculate oak with large numbers of non-native species including sweet chestnut, sycamore, larch and pines. As with Burrow Wood the shrub layer is sparse.
Management of the reserve is based on the long term aim of developing the site as a native broadleaved woodland. To achieve this aim, the invasive non-native sycamore will be controlled in both woods. The remaining non-native species which are not invasive will be allowed to die out naturally.
An innovative project is the creation of woodland to link Cat Hill and Burrow woods by natural regeneration in the field between them. To aid this, a strip alongside Burrow Wood was rotovated in 1996, while the rest of the field is being left to its own devices.
Additional management work on the reserve includes repairing the boundary dry stone walls, maintaining the paths and monitoring a bird box scheme.
Features of interest
The display of bluebells in Burrow Wood in the spring is the most impressive sight on the reserve. It also has a great variety of dead wood habitats, from standing dead trees to rotting fallen trees and branches, which are important for insects.
The standing dead wood attracts a variety of bird life including nuthatch, tree creeper and all three native species of woodpecker (great spotted, lesser spotted and green). Other notable bird species include tawny owl, kestrel and jay.
Live near here? Want to help out?
Why not join one of our teams of volunteers. We have regular work parties covering reserves in this area including Charley Woods. For more information contact us.