Banburyshire Rambles Photo-Journal

Paul Mobbs’ photographic record of his walks around ‘Banburyshire’ and ‘The Irondowns’, and occasionally, as part of his work around Britain, the areas beyond.

‘Last Chance (HS)To See’ – Scene 5:

‘Cubbington Woods’

Enjoying bluebells and the cacophony of bird song in the late Spring woodland

5th May 2018

If you carry on past the church, the pub and the school in Cuddington, beyond the children's playground you enter some fields, and then the broad expanse of Cubbington Woods – or rather the South wood, as the northern half lies beyond the Rugby Road. The woodlands are beautiful at any time of year, but today, in the latter-half of Spring, they are alive with birdsong. And in contrast to the light green leaf canopy above, the ground all around is a carpet of deep purple bluebells.

The path out of Cubbington is part of the route of Shakespeare's Avon Way, on its 88-mile route from Naesby to Tewkesbury. This path though the wood, and the path which skirts the southen fringe of the wood overlooking the valley of the Leam, form an important part of the local footpaths network, giving access to the upper parts of the Leam valley from Leamington and Lillington.

HS2 climbs as it runs across the Leam valley. Beginning in a cutting just to the south of the wood, it then enters an engineered retaining wall as it passes through the South wood – otherwise creating a cutting would obliterate a large part of the woodland.

As it leaves the edge of the woodland it re-enters a cutting once more, passing under a new bridge on the Rugby Road.

As shown in the image on the right, taken from where the path reaches the edge of wood, and where the route of HS2 exits between its retaining walls, Cubbington South Wood is a dense, species rich natural woodland.

To make up for the loss of habitat, new trees will be planted on the Weston Hall side of the wood, and around the southern fringe down onto the Leam valley.

Over time, as the new planting matures, the woodland may recover. The greater concern, however, is the effect on hydrology. The woodland has a high water table, the result of the glacial deposits beneath providing significant water storage (as seen by the springs which well-up on the edge of the woodland). Should the cutting and retaining wall cause that water level to drain, it might initiate longer-term damage to the ecosystems of the woodland.