Area: 23.2 hectares.
Description and Reasons for Notification:
Bradiford Valley is important for its ancient sessile oak woodland and associated breeding birds. Additional habitats are provided by an old mill leat, pond, stream, and several meadows. The whole supports a diverse wildlife in close proximity to the town of Barnstaple.
The stream, Bradiford Water, runs in a south-westerly direction, at about 15 metres above sea level, entering the Taw estuary nearly 2 kilometres beyond the site. Tutshill Wood rises to about 95 metres, and faces south-east over the generally level flood plain situated between the leat and stream. Devonian siltstones and mudstones underlie the site, giving rise to the typical brown earth soils.
The wood consists largely of a stand of sessile oak Quercus petraea with ash Fraxinus excelsior as a codominant. Hazel Corylus avellana, holly Ilex aquifolium and occasional hawthorn Crataegus monogyna occur in the understorey, with some honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum. The ground flora includes primrose Primula vulgaris, wood avens Geum urbanum, wood anemone Anemone nemorosa and dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis. Some areas of the wood have been invaded by sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus and beech Fagus sylvatica. Here bramble Rubus fruticosus and ivy Hedera helix are abundant, with frequent great woodrush Luzula sylvatica and wood sage Teucrium scorodonia. Alder Alnus glutinosa occurs as individual trees along the watercourses, and as a stand with sallow Salix cinerea where a tributary stream enters the site to the north.
The hillside and flood-plain fields are pasture grasslands with characteristic species such as bents Agrostis spp, perennial rye-grass Lolium perenne and crested dog’s-tail Cynosurus cristatus, clovers Trifolium spp and buttercups Ranunculus spp. and rushes Juncus spp. in wetter areas. Some herbs occur generally, such as cat’s-ear Hypochoeris radicata and common knapweed Centaurea nigra, while others such as common fleabane Pulicaria dysenterica and creeping thistle Cirsium arvense are more local. These grasslands are a source of invertebrates on which many of the site’s breeding birds feed.
The site supports over 50 breeding bird species. Many of these occur in the wood, e.g. buzzard Buteo buteo, sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus, all three British species of woodpecker, tawny owl Strix aluco, little owl Athene noctua, spotted flycatcher Muscicapa striata and nuthatch Sitta europaea. Several Warblers such as whitethroat Sylvia communis and garden warbler S. borin also breed here. Dipper Cinclus cinclus, grey wagtail Motacilla cinerea, kingfisher Alcedo atthis and water rail Rallus aquaticus nest near the watercourses.