The landscape of Breinton has seen few significant changes in the last few hundred years, which means there is a special diversity of wildlife in long-established woodland, meadow and road verge habitats. The soils are excellent, (Grades 1 and 2), and so orchards, horticulture and agriculture are particularly prominent. Near the River Wye there are some particularly unusual natural habitats, e.g. in the ancient woodland on the steep slopes of river cliffs.
Breinton was a favourite study area for botanists of the Woolhope Field Naturalists’ Club in the 19th and 20th centuries, and their finds are chronicled in the Woolhope Transactions in Hereford Library and at Herefordshire Archives and Records Centre. Rare plants found on steep banks of the River Wye have included the Milk Cap mushroom Lactarius controversus (found by Rev. E. Du Buisson, Breinton Court, Woolhope Club Transactions 1868 pp245-246), and the moss Epipterygium tozeri, Orev. (by Augustin Ley, Woolhope Club Transactions, 1889). See more about fungi here.
Wildlife flourishes in Breinton. Wildlife species (flora and fauna) for which photos are available (on request) are listed for Breinton Common, Breinton Court Meadow, Breinton House, Breinton Manor, Breinton footpaths and verges, Little Breinton, River Wye, Warham Court Farm, Wyecliffe House, Wyecliffe Meadow, Kings Acre Road
See Breinton_parish_flora_list_2012-2014 . Dr. Jane Wise wrote:
“During 2012 I recorded the flowering plants of all accessible meadows, fields, woodlands and wayside verges within the parish of Breinton, which lies immediately to the west of the city of Hereford. (See Breinton Flora File 1 Breinton_flora_2012) Some localities, notably those bordering intensively farmed fields, supported a very limited range of flowering plants whilst others offered much richer plant diversity – these were largely associated with water, particularly the Wye riverbank and pools associated with earlier farming methods. Some steeper grassland above the Wye meadows also proved botanically interesting. Between March and October of 2012, well over 200 flowering plants were identified, several with dramatically beautiful blooms ; Wild Daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) formed drifts of gold in one woodland, in company with bluebells and other wonderful spring flowers. A single flower of the superb blue Greater Bellflower (Campanula latifolia) perched precariously on the Wye riverbank and other exotically colourful plants associated with the river included Purple Loosestrife ( Lythrum salicaria), Yellow Loosetrife (Lysimachia vulgaris) and Soapwort (Saponaria offininalis). It was particularly exciting to discover two rare arable ‘weeds’ not recorded for many years in the locality, namely Shepherd’s Needle (Scandix pectin-pastoris) and Corn Buttercup (Ranunculus arvensis).
Breinton parish includes a variety of habitats, notably woodland, grasslands, riverbank, ancient ponds , orchards, roadside verges (many with old shrub-rich hedgerows) and various types of farmland. I was delighted to find several niche habitats supporting plants which must have survived for many years. Protracted rainfall during 2012 may have favoured flowering of some species. Wildlife conservation now advocates ‘living landscapes’ and the rich flora of Breinton parish illustrates the importance of evaluating and protecting wildlife outside designated reserves. The city of Hereford is surrounded in every direction by landscapes of invaluable natural beauty, amenity value and historical interest, which deserve every effort to protect them.
I am extremely grateful for the help and advice of Peter Garner, Herefordshire county plant recorder and Sue Holland, Reserves Officer for Herefordshire Nature Trust.”
In 2013 the Parklands Project and Herefordshire Nature Trust produced a report of plants and habitats around Breinton Wood and Warham House. Lists of plants and discussion of their status can be read here.
See also the section on Woodland Heritage, describing a number of woodland habitats in Breinton. Photos of individual species as listed are available (on request) for Breinton Court Wood, Breinton Wood, Drovers Wood and Wyevale Wood.
Some hedges have been surveyed for the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE). Many hedges in Breinton include a diversity of species that suggests they are old.
Summary of a Recent Survey (Dr. Jane Wise, 2012)
“The landscape of Breinton is enhanced by a network of long-established hedgerows and many impressive ancient hedgerow trees. A survey of 16 hedges totalling just over six kilometres was undertaken between 2010 and 2012 under the auspices of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). The hedges included field boundaries of arable land, pasture and orchard as well as hedges along lanes and public footpaths.
In general, the hedges surveyed were well maintained and in good heart, typically including some nine or ten different woody species in each 300M section. The commonest shrubs were ash, hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel and elder, but field maple, dogwood , spindle, elm (wych and English), pedunculate oak and holly were often recorded. More unusual were yew, crab apple, damson, privet and willow.
Most hedges were robust, reflecting continued maintenance over many years. A few hedges had lost their shrubby structure and had been overgrown by dense bramble and dog rose; occasionally uncut hedges had grown to become lines of trees. The survey included only one species-poor hedge which consisted predominantly of hawthorn, with a few gaps where elder had become established – this hedge had probably been planted to replace an earlier one.
Hedgerow trees included 32 pedunculate oaks, all probably well over 200 years old, the largest measuring over 5m in circumference. The state of our hedgerow ash trees, the second commonest hedgerow tree species in the survey, may become a matter of concern as the impact of ash-dieback disease becomes evident. Pear, field maple, crab apple, hawthorn and sycamore were also recorded.
Hedges are well recognised as an important reservoir for wildlife, as many mammals, insects and birds find protection in their structures. Our survey showed that they protect ground flora growing in wayside verges, probably by preventing dissemination of agricultural chemicals; it was not unusual to find as many as twenty wildflower species within 300m survey sections.
There is no doubt that hedges contribute to the distinctive character of our landscape; they reflect land stewardship over centuries and fully deserve the efforts which maintain them in Breinton.”
The hedge adjacent to the bridleway leaving Kings Acre Road opposite Huntington Lane has been surveyed, and further details are available (see File 2 Bridleway and hedge between KAR and Drove road).
Plants in Warham, and Breinton Wood
The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England and the Parklands Project surveyed some meadows between Warham Court and the River Wye and listed all the species seen (see File 3 WARHAM PLANT LIST). Green Bank has been made a Jubilee Meadow and an interpretation board noting the local history and natural history was unveiled by the Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire, Lady Darnley, on 21 August 2013.
Herefordshire Nature Trust also made a more in-depth study of the wildlife around Breinton Wood and Warham in 2013. Read the details: File 6 Warham House Preliminary Ecological Appraisal
Animals and birds
Breinton is rich in animals and birds, including: foxes, badgers, otters, grey squirrels, kingfishers, skylarks, yellowhammers and buzzards. See the 2013 survey around Warham for more details of sightings and habitats: File 6 Warham House Preliminary Ecological Appraisal.
The Noble Chafer beetle (Gnorimus nobilis) is an endangered species noted in Breinton orchards. See:
Orchards also provide a rich habitat for many birds, including woodpeckers and redwings.
A record of fauna, including moths, butterflies and insects, observed in Breinton Common is being kept by Mr. Arthur Wild (see File 4 A record of Breinton fauna, A. Wild ).
There are many small ponds around Breinton, some natural and some dug to provide watering points for livestock. In 1995 a pond was dug at Breinton Manor, for wildlife and also as a fire-fighting resource. Most ponds house Great Crested Newts.
Bats in Warham
Two bat activity surveys were undertaken during June and July 2013 by experts from Herefordshire Nature Trust using manual bat detectors. On a route around Breinton Wood and Warham House, walked after sunset, a minimum of six bat species was recorded, which were, in order of abundance: soprano pipistrelle, common pipistrelle, at least two species of Myotis bat, long-eared bat and serotine bat. Further surveys are likely to record additional bat species. Breinton Wood and buildings around Warham House provide ideal habitats for bats to roost, in particular around the mature trees and standing deadwood. Bats tend to forage and feed in open woodland, along woodland edges and near water courses, all habitats found in Lower Breinton and Warham.
For further details see: File 6 Warham House Preliminary Ecological Appraisal
(Section updated by Nichola Geeson, 2017)