Foxley is Norfolk’s largest remaining ancient woodland.
In early spring pale yellow primroses peek out from the banks of ditches, a prelude to the riot of colour to follow in mid/late April to early May (varying year to year), when bluebells carpet the woodland floor. Other interesting woodland plants and wildflowers such as dog’s mercury, greater butterfly orchid, wood anemone, wild garlic and herbparis can also be found, as well as the locally scarce wild service-tree. In total over 350 flowering plant species have been recorded.
All of the common woodland birds can be seen with patience in Foxley including green and great spotted woodpeckers, nuthatch, treecreeper, marsh tit and jay. Common summer visitors such as blackcap, garden warbler, chiffchaff, and willow warbler occur, and declining species such as turtle dove, grasshopper warbler, and spotted flycatcher may also sometimes show themselves.
Tawny owls are resident, and barn owls occasionally hunt along the wood’s wide rides. Birds of prey include sparrowhawk and kestrel, with rarer visitors including hobby and common buzzard.
Foxley is a hotspot for butterflies including white admiral, meadow brown, speckled wood, ringlet and purple hairstreak.
The site can be wet or muddy underfoot, particularly during bluebell time due to the number of visitors in early spring.
One of the least known of the UK’s native trees, the wild service-tree is easily overlooked for most of the year. However, in late spring it becomes covered with white blossom, and in late autumn its leaves turn a brilliant coppery-red. The brown berries were once a staple food; bitter until softened by frost, they are said to possess hints of apricot, damson and sultana. Not surprisingly, they are also extremely popular with birds.
NWT holds annual events to coincide with the flowering of the bluebells – one of Foxley Wood’s great natural sights – which varies each year from mid April to early May.
With its delicately patterned black and white upperwing and mottled orange and white underwing the white admiral is unlike any other British butterfly species in its appearance. It is generally on the wing from July to the end of August. NWT’s management of Foxley Wood favours the growth of
brambles, the white admiral’s main source of nectar, and honeysuckle, its larval food plant.