Kerelaw Glen and Glen Banks are the two main areas of semi-natural ancient woodland left in Stevenston. Some very mature tree specimens survive at Kerelaw, as well as a bountiful supply of Ivy-covered, mature shrubs. Fallen and dying trees produce good amounts of deadwood and the mature trees produce a deep leaf litter – both good things for invertebrates.
The waterlogged, south facing slope north of Kerelaw Glen supports a variety of plant species, such as St John’s Wort, Devil’s-bit Scabious, Cuckoo Flower and Ragged Robin.
The mature woodland along the glen supports a surprising diversity of breeding birds, including Tawny Owl, Treecreeper, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Bullfinch, Willow Warbler, Coal Tit and Goldcrest. Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat can be found in the wood-side scrub. In autumn, Redwings and Fieldfares are numerous on the neighbouring Hawthorns, and tit/Goldcrest/Treecreeper flocks can usually be found in the wood. Buzzards can be found throughout the year, soaring near the site in summer and sometimes skulking in the wood in winter.
The burn plays host to several species of waterbird from time to time. Grey Wagtail breed some years and Mallard and Grey Heron turn up occasionally; however, human disturbance limits how frequently these birds visit the site. Kerelaw Glen is part of a large otter territory. The burn is an important otter habitat in itself, but also acts as a corridor for otters travelling between Ashgrove Loch and Stevenston Beach.
Wildflower-rich brownfield landThe former Kerelaw School grounds at the west of the wood is now overgrown brownfield land. The partially-vegetated concrete footprint of the old school mimics the micro habitat conditions of sand dunes. Consequently, uncommon coastal weevils, such as Barypithes sulcifrons, Protapion apricans and Hypera plantaginis, are present at the site. Various species of solitary bee can be found foraging on the abundant wildflowers, including Lasioglossum cupromicans, Lasioglossum albpies, Lasioglossum villosulum, Andrena fucata and the large leafcutter bee, Megachile willughbiella. The wildflower-rich brownfield land also provides nectar sources for the ancient woodland’s insects, including the local Longhorn beetle, Grammoptera ruficornis.
Glen BanksUpstream from Kerelaw Glen lies Glen Banks, a picturesque wooded glen through which the Glen Burn runs. The banks of the glen are very steep and boast several impressive river cliffs. Consequently, completely felling the wood to expand the neighbouring farmland has never been possible and so this pleasant area of semi-natural ancient woodland remains.
The main tree species are Beech, Elm and Sycamore. There are many mature Hawthorn, Elder and Gorse bushes, and a reasonable amount of standing deadwood. The diversity of species and structure supports a good variety of breeding birds, including Tawny Owl, Spotted Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest and Bullfinch. Although the woodland is heavily grazed, there is still a reasonable variety of plant life, including Wood Sorrel and, in spring, a carpet of Primrose and Bluebell.