Woodborough’s Heritage

Woodborough, a Sherwood Forest Village, recorded in Domesday

Birds & butterflies observed in the Churchyard in 1982 - A survey in 1982 of St Swithun's churchyard by members of the Woodborough Women's Institute, found the following birds and butterflies present. All water colour paintings are by Mrs Christine Brooks, and descriptions provided by Mrs Jean Parrott. In 2007 the Woodborough in Bloom committee erected various bird boxes in the churchyard to encourage nesting.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula):- The bullfinch is a very attractive bird with rosy red underparts, black cap and grey upper parts. When flying it can be recognised by its white rump. The female has the same colouring as the male but lacks the vivid red breast. It is so called because it has no obvious neck and is bull-necked. It can be a very destructive bird especially in orchards where it enjoys eating the buds of fruit trees.

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs):- The male chaffinch is a very colourful bird. The female lacks the bright colours but has the same wing pattern as the male. This is probably the commonest member of the finch family in this country. It is found in many habitats including woodland, parkland, farmland, and urban areas. It is an opportunist bird and often frequents picnic and car parking areas where it feeds off crumbs left by humans.

Dunnock (Prunella modularis):- Another name for the Dunnock is Hedge Sparrow. However, it is not a sparrow at all and is in fact an accentor. It is quite widespread throughout Britain and is found in gardens, woodland and even mountainous and coastal areas if there is a certain amount of scrub cover. It is a similar size to a House Sparrow but has a thinner bill. Dunnocks forage on the ground looking for insects and grubs. They have quite a complex pattern of social and breeding behaviour.

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus):- This is Britain’s smallest bird and the adult weighs only 6½  grams. It is 3½ inches (9cms)long and is mainly found high up in coniferous trees and is usually located by its very high pitched song. It is usually found searching trees for insects, spiders and their larvae and eggs. Its nest is finely woven and made of lichen and cobwebs. Due to its diminutive size, it may be vulnerable in severe winters.

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis):- Due to its attractive song, the goldfinch was often caught and caged. As the catching and caging of wild birds is illegal, this practice has now stopped. It is conspicuous by its gold and black coloured wing bars and of course its bright red face. The red face is larger on the male but this is difficult to determine in the field. A flock of these beautiful birds is called a charm. One of their favourite plants to feed from is the teasel as their fine pointed bill is ideal in pulling out the seeds of this plant.

Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris):- A very common finch found in gardens and woodland areas though it tends not to nest in dense woodland. The greenfinch has a bright yellow wing patch with yellow outer tail feathers. The female is duller in colour and has a faint streaking underneath. It is a common visitor to bird tables and feeders where it can be quite aggressive.

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus):- A gregarious bird, the House Sparrow has learnt to live very comfortably with man. It is often seen and heard flying in and around privet hedging and its constant chirruping is well known. It often nests in buildings and as it is a gregarious bird it nests in colonies. In the countryside it will also nest in hedges and trees. Since this survey was carried out there has been a serious decline of house sparrows throughout the country.

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes):- Found in woodland and gardens with dense undergrowth. Because of its small size, it is vulnerable in severe winters. The male wren builds a number of nests made of leaves, dried grass and moss and the hen bird chooses one nest by lining it with feathers. The nests may be found in nooks and crannies, often in ivy or other creepers. Its song is very loud and explosive for such a small bird.

Robin (Erithacus rubecula):- Everyone is familiar with this bird and it is our national bird. The robin is a resident bird but many migrate from Scandinavia during the winter months. To gardeners, it is a very tame bird and will even take food from the hand. It can be very aggressive towards its own kind and is very territorial in habit. Fights between disputing robins can in extreme cases lead to death. Nests are built only by the female and may be found hidden amongst ivy or even in kettles or saucepans.

Magpie (Pica pica):- Although an attractive bird with its white and glossy blue and green feathers, it is much maligned due to it stealing other bird’s eggs and also taking nestlings. It is a member of the crow family and is a very sociable bird. Its alarm call is unmistakable being a harsh chattering. It struts very confidently along the ground with occasional bouncy hops.

Great Tit (Parus major):- This, the largest member of the Tit family, may be found in parks, gardens, orchards and cemeteries. It takes very readily to nest boxes, more so than its other relatives. It is a very vocal bird and may be often heard calling “teacher-teacher”.

Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus):- One of the commonest garden birds in Britain. It is a woodland bird but often visits bird tables and trees in gardens. Very acrobatic in behaviour. It nests in holes in trees but will use nest boxes if provided. However, garden nest boxes are not as successful as woodland boxes. It is not unusual for twelve eggs to be laid but the mortality rate is so high that not all chicks survive. The chicks hatch to coincide with the emergence of caterpillars.

Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus):- Breeds in woods, parks and gardens. The adult pigeon manufactures crop milk which it feeds to its young. They eat cereal crops, brassicas, root crops and legumes and as such can be quite destructive and farmers therefore class them as pests.

Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus):- The mistle thrush is also known as the Stormcock due to it singing throughout stormy weather during the winter months. It is seen in the open more than Song Thrushes and is more aggressive in character. It is larger than both the blackbird and song thrush. Its diet includes slugs, small snails. earthworms and berries. The female builds the nest usually in the fork of a high branch and the male helps with the feeding of the young for a short period.

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos):- Aptly named, this bird has a beautiful song which it repeats. It is particularly known for its habit of smashing snail shells to enable it to get to the occupant inside. It is a timid bird unlike its relative the mistle thrush. Numbers of this bird has dropped in recent years due to the poor survival rate of young fledglings.

Jackdaw (Corvus monedula):- The jackdaw is the smallest member of the crow family and is often found near human habitation. It normally nests in holes in trees but very often nests on buildings and especially in chimney pots.. The Jackdaw pairs for life. It may often be seen feeding with other members of the crow family, typically rooks.

Tawny Owl (Strix aluco):- Commonly found in forests, woods, parks and large gardens. It is nocturnal and feeds on small rodents, birds, frogs, worms and insects. During daytime while it is roosting, it often gets mobbed by other birds. Usually nests in tree holes but will use boxes.

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris):- A very entertaining and gregarious bird. Full of character, this bird is noisy and aggressive. When visiting gardens, a large group will usually descend squabbling and chattering as they fight over tit bits. Leatherjackets (the larvae of daddy-long-legs) are a favourite food of this bird. It is a resident but thousands migrate to Britain over the winter months when spectacular displays of roosting birds may be seen. The species has drastically declined since this survey was carried out.

Blackbird (Turdus merula):- A very familiar bird in British gardens. The blackbird is a resident but in winter, many migrate to Britain from Scandinavia and even as far away as Russia. It eats insects and earthworms and during Autumn, it will also eat berries. Nests may be found in a hedge or low tree. The female is brown.

Mallard (Anas platyyrhynchos):- This is the most familiar duck in Britain. It is a resident species and is a dabbling duck which means it feeds on the surface of the water. It may be found on park lakes, city canals and rural backwaters including ditches. It nests in pollarded willows or holes in trees and even on buildings and often high off the ground.

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni):- This is often the first butterfly seen in the year. It is thought that the name of this butterfly originates from its bright yellow colour. The female is paler in colour but both have the orange spot on each wing. They are strong fliers and are found on the margins of woodland, along hedgerows and in thickets and gardens. Their source of nectar comes from mainly wild flowers.

Large White (Pieris brassicae):- Often called “Cabbage White” because of its main food source – brassicas. Interestingly, the caterpillar of the large white feeds on the outer leaves of a cabbage whilst the small white caterpillar feeds in the heart of the cabbage. The Large White normally has two generations in each year – from April to June and from July to September. This butterfly is much reduced in numbers as a result of insecticides. A large number migrate to us from the continent.

Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines):- Only the male has orange on its wings and both have mottled green undersides. The female has grey tips to the upper wings. It is mainly found along roadsides, ditches and rough pasture where it obtains their main food sources which are brassicas, creeping yellow cress, large bittercress, and garlic mustard. It has been recorded that females prefer bluish-pink and white flowers and therefore visit lilac blossom in the spring. They only have one generation a year and may live up to 18 days.

Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae):- It is not certain which tortoiseshell was recorded in the churchyard. There are two – the small and large although the large has since declined very much in numbers and is extremely rare. Small tortoiseshells are very common and are often seen in gardens with buddleias and sedum. They live through the winter as butterflies and will hibernate inside houses and outbuildings. They become active in mid March and lay their eggs in May so that we have a generation of butterflies in June and July. These then lay eggs which turn into butterflies in August and September. They will then hibernate through the winter.


On 21st May 1982 Woodborough Women's Institute members, Mrs Pat Burton, Mrs M Ashton and Mrs Nora Jackson, undertook a survey of flora in St Swithun's Churchyard and the following plants were recorded. Species observed on a later visit have the date recorded in brackets against its name. Mrs Christine Brooks provided water colour paintings of some of listed plants.

Trees & Shrubs

Ash   Fraximus excelsior

Atlantic Cedar   Cedrus atlantica

Berberis species

Cypress & variegated cypress   Chamalcyparis lawsonia, variety unknown

Elder   Sambucus niger (mostly birds sown)

Elm   Ulmus

Hawthorn   Crataegus oxyacanthoides, and pink hawthorn

Holly and variegated holly   Ilex aquafolium

Lime   Tilia X europaia

Maple   Acer platanoides, variety unknown


Rhododendron .. pink

Sessile Oak   Quercus petraea

Silver Birch   Betula pendula

Sycamore   Acer pseudoplatanus

Walnut   Juglans

Yew   Taxus baccata

Planted shrubs and bulbs

Crocus species

Narcissus species


Snowdrop   Galanthus nivalis

Wild Flowers

Annual Pearlwort   Sagina apetala

Aquilegia (Grannies bonnets)

Barreb Strawberry   Potentilla sterilis

Black Bryony   Thamus communis

Bramble   Rubus fruticosus

Broad Dock   Rumex obtusifolius

Broad Leaved Willow Herb   Epilobium montanum

Bush Vetch   Vicia sepium

Celandine   Ranunculus ficaria

Chickweed   Stellaria media

Common Birds-foot Trefoil  Lotus corniculatus (29th June 1982)

Common Catsear   Hypochoeris radicata

Common Sorrel   Rumex acetosa

Cow Parsley  Anthriscus sylvestris

Creeping Buttercup   Rananculus repens

Curled Dock   Rumex crispus

Daisy   Bellis perennis

Dandelion   Taraxacum

Forget me not   Myosotis sylvatica

Foxglove   Digitalis purerea

Garlic Mustard   Allaria petiolata

Germander speedwell   Veronica chamaedrys

Gooseberry seedling   Ribes uva crispa

Goosegrass   Galium aparine

Great Bindweed   Calystegia sepium (14th July 1982)

Great Willow Herb   Epilobium hirsutum

Ground Ivy   Glechoma hederacea

Grounsel   Senecio vulgaris

Hawkweed   Hieraium species

Hedge Mustard  Sisymbrium offioinale (14th July 1982)

Hedge Woundwort   Stachys sylvatica

Herb Robert   Geranium robertianum

Honesty (seeded by birds from nearby gardens)

Ivy   Hedera helix

Lady's Bedstraw   Galium verum

Lady's-smock   Cardamine hirsuta

Lords & Ladies   Arum maculatum

Meadow Buttercup   Rananculus acris

Nipplewort  Lapsana communis (14th July 1982)

Pignut   Conopodium majus

Primrose   Primula vulgaris

Ragwort   Senecio jacobaca

Ransomes   Alium ursinum

Ratstail plantain   Plantago major

Red Clover   Trifolium rubra

Ribwort plantain   Plantago lanceolata

Small Nettle   Urtica urens

Spear Thistle   Cirsium vulgare

Stinging Nettle   Urtica dioica

Thyme leaved speedwell  Veronica serphyllifolia

Wall Lettuce   Mycelis muralis (14th July 1982)

White Clover   Trifolium alba

White Dead Nettle   Lamium albium

White Violet   Viola odorata alba

Wild Rose   Rosa canina

Wood Avens   Geum urbanum

Yellow Meadow Vetchling   Lathyrus pratensis (4th July 1982)

Grasses & Ferns

Annual Meadow Grass   Poa annua

Catstail   Phleum pratense

Cocksfoot   Dactylis glomerata

False Oat Grass  Arrhenatherum elatius

Field Woodrush   Luxula campestris

Foxtail   Alopecurus  

Hairy Brome   Bromus ramosus

Male Fern   Dryopteris felix mas

Smooth Meadow Grass   Poa pratensis

Sweet Vernal Grass   Anthoxanthum odratum

Wood Millet   Millium effusum



Wild flowers watercolours -

by Christine Brooks

Sample leaf types watercolours -

by Christine Brooks

Four views of St Swithun's Churchyard from

where the 1982 and 2009 surveys took place

The WI Survey of churchyard fauna & flora

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