We carried out a series of surveys over the last couple of years in these woods. Under the guidance of professional leaders, we looked at plants, butterflies, moths, birds, small mammals including bats, fungi and wasps and bees.  


Three surveys led by Frances Watkins were carried out at different times of the year.  Overall, 109 species of plant were found.  Some of these plants, for example, bluebells, wood sorrell and pignut are indicators of ancient woodland. Please find the full survey here.




Please click here to see the results of the Bat Survey carried out by Dr Danielle Linton, Bat Ecologist.   We caught 4 species in nets, including a pregnant natterers bat, a noctule bat that can travel up to 20km in a night, a soprano pipistrelle, and a Brandt's bat.

Here is a link to the possible bat species that could be found in the wood, compiled by Dr Danielle Linton.

Below is a picture of a brown long eared bat found hibernating in a hole in a tree in the woods in March, taken by Keith Cohen with use of an endoscope under licence from Natural England.





Please click here to see the butterflies recorded in the woods in 2014 with Toby Gillie from the Upper Thames Branch of Butterfly Conservation.  We recorded 19 different species.  At least three of these, the White Admiral, the Purple Hairstreak and the Purple Emperor are rare butterflies.


Over 175 species of moth were found, some of which are rare or endangered species.  There was a huge range in the size and appearance of the moths.  To see the full list of the moths found, please click here.


Please click here to see the results of the birds surveyed over 2015 by Ray Strugnell.  45 species of bird have been identified.

Small mammals

A series of small mammal traps were placed throughout the woods to catch and then release small mammals in a survey lead by Dr Amanda Lloyd.  The report is here.


We had great fun on a fungi foray. Approximately 60 identifiable fungi were found, with wonderful names such as dead man's fingers, jelly ear and turkey tail.  Please see the full list here.  These were recorded by Judy Webb.

A recent survey of bees and wasps has been carried out, which we will publish soon.  This was particularly exciting as a very rare sawfly was identified.  This has only been spotted once before in the UK, and that was in 1947 in Devon!

A special thanks must go to Ray Strugnell for organising and participating in all of these surveys.  This involved a huge amount of work, and has provided us with invaluable records of the flora and fauna of our special woodlands.

Pictures by Alex White (Appleton Wildlife Diary) and Anna Yalci

Anna Yalci

Besselsleigh Wood Group



Besselsleigh Wood Group are a user group for anyone interested in contributing to the management and improvement of Besselsleigh Wood for the benefit of the local community. We look after the woodland on behalf of its owners, the Vale of White Horse District Council, and hold regular work days and evenings at the wood, suitable for people of all ages, interests and abilities.  

We have a constitution (link)

We have a 20 year management plan (link)

We put on a popular Wood Fest every couple of years for the local community.

Last Autumn we have erected a deer proof fence around an area of the wood cleared to improve the tree stock.  We also hope to plant a further 100 metres of hedgerow along an exposed edge.

We’re always keen to hear from anyone who would like to be part of the group. People contribute in many ways and the main thing is that you get a chance to spend time in this lovely woodland, whilst helping to conserve it for current and future generations.

For more information please contact us at:

Our current chairman is John Page.  Many thanks to Richard Snow our previous chairman for  his hard work over the previous years as chairman.

As you may know we like to spend Thursday evenings during the summer months to carry out some woodland management and improvement activities. 


Some activities are:

1) Pulling the Himalayan Balsam  - before it gets too established. 

2) Pruning the top of our planted hedge.

3) Bracken slashing around the new hazel planting

4) Internal pathway improvements (Work still to be planned) 

5) Tree pruning and thinning.

6) Firewood processing. 

7) General clearing of tree shelters. 


As you can see there are  activities for most ages and abilities.

It would be useful to bring stout footwear, gloves and a slashing implement if you have one. 


We will let you know when we begin meeting again in the better weather.