Cole, Shire Oaks, Burton, Lawson's and Walks Woods form the Aughton Woods complex on the northern side of the River Lune, about 5 miles north east of Lancaster, between Aughton and Caton. The car park at Crook o' Lune can be used and there is a public footpath along the riverside which traverses the lower slopes of Lawson's Wood. There is an access path for members along the bottom of Burton Wood.
Although a permit is not required to visit Aughton Woods, our legal agreement with adjacent landowners means that only Trust members can use the access paths to Cole Wood and Shire Oaks Wood. Public access is through the entrance at the southern boundary of Lawson's Wood. The two additional entrances over stiles into Cole Wood and Shire Oaks Wood are by permit holders only. Please apply for a permit from the Trust office if you are not a member.
This 33 ha site was bought by the Trust in 1987 and 2005. In 1989 it was notified a SSSI along with the adjacent Bedford Moss. It has recently been designated as a candidate Special Area of Conservation under the European Habitats Directive.
The Aughton Woods enjoy the peace and solitude of a wood in a remote location. Spring is a colourful time to visit when the Bluebells form a carpet across the woodland floor. The ancient semi-natural woodland has retained at least 30 examples of abandoned charcoal hearths, circular platforms levelled out of the hillside. There are many examples of multi-stemmed trees which have grown up from the stools last coppiced 70-100 years ago to provide wood for charcoal and bark for tanning leather.
The wood is particularly noted for its Small-leaved Lime which has survived in the ravines and along the western and southern edges of the wood. Cole Wood and a small adjacent area of Shire Oaks Wood was felled in the mid '60s and contains a good deal of Birch, a primary coloniser of cleared woodland. Sessile Oak dominates the section between the ravines of Shire Oaks Wood where the soil is more acid, with Elm, Ash and Lime occurring in the ravines. From a distance the stand of Ash on the northern edge is distinctive especially as it is often the last to come into leaf and the first to shed. You will also be able to see the Douglas Firs poking through the canopy.
The ground flora includes Primrose, Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage, Wood Speedwell, Foxglove and many ferns. Wood Fescue, which is a national rarity, is confined to the damp ravines. The fronds of Soft Shield Fern, a southern fern, can be seen with their distinctive asymmetrical pinnae which have needle-like points. Woodpeckers, Treecreeper, Chiffchaff, Chaffinches, and five species of tit may be seen in the reserve. Pied Flycatchers breed regularly and Nuthatches and Wood Warblers have been recorded. You may hear the strange call of the Woodcock in the evening. Oystercatchers and Common Sandpipers are very obvious around the River Lune from late February to August. In 2002, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Trust purchased the meadow above Lawson's Wood.