Newport Forest is a 110 acre (45 ha) area on the south side of the Thames River near Wardsville, Ontario within the Deciduous Forest Zone. Historically, it is ecologically contiguous with the Skunk’s Misery area on the north side of the Thames, barely one km distant over intervening agricultural land. The property consists mainly of lowland forest, with some upland forest (the Hogsback), meadow, ravine slopes and bluff forests, and floodplain. The highest point of land is the Hogsback (5 ha), a partially eroded Pleistocene rover terrace. The lower part of Newport Forest is subject to periodic flooding and this influences plant and animal life considerably. The soil is glacial clay with some underlying till and an upper horizon (about 10 dc) of clay loam.
The upland forest on the Hogsback consists of a Maple-Beech canopy with about 10 other woody species present including red, White and Chinquapin Oak, Blue Ash and Blue Beech. The four lowland forests – Riverside Forest (8 ha), Blind Creek Forest (8 ha), west ravine forest, and New Floodplain Forest (also known as Fleming’s Creek Ravine) – consist mainly of Box Elder, Black Walnut, Sycamore, Sugar and Black Maple, Black Willow, American Elam and Slippery Elm. The Beech-maple complex, including white Ash, is also present to varying degrees.
Blind Creek is an ephemeral wetland formed when Fleming’s creek cut new banks to the Thames and abandoned its former bed. The banks of Flemings’ Creek and the west ravine are heavily wooded, prime sites for spring wildflowers. On the Thames floodplain, between the river and the Riverside Forest, grow some unusual species including Cup Plant. The Upper and Lower Meadows, previously used for grazing cattle, will be allowed to succeed into forest except for small service areas. Already, the meadows include several interesting native plants such as Wingstem, Coneflowers, Blue-eyed grass, and Aster species. The preliminary checklist of 181 plant species indicates that 75% are native, including Carolinian species. The meadows and adjacent scrub provide habitat for Savanna Sparrow, eastern Meadowlark, eastern Bluebird, etc. The lowland forest and floodplain attract a wide variety of migrating and resident birds including the red-bellied Woodpecker. A preliminary wildlife list includes a number of unusual molluscs, several herpetofaunal species including the Spiny Soft-shell Turtle, and common mammals. Adjacent landowners and visitors have reported Southern Flying Squirrel, Badger, Eastern Cougar and Coyote within the past five years.
Newport Forest is part of a much larger forest complex (dissected by adjoining farmland) known as the Skunk’s Misery Complex, consisting of about 4000 acres (1620 ha) of forest in various conditions, from near-pristine to selectively logged. Historically, the physical relief of these lands appeared during the post-glacial period, emerging from beneath ice-sheets along the proto-Thames River approximately 14,000 years ago. Before the arrival of European settlers ca 1830, this area was fully forested except for small areas of prairie and wetlands. Among the early landowners of “Newport Forest” were Alex Cameron (1840) and Henry Powell (1877). During and since that period the land has always been mixed agriculture and woodlot. At one point, a house was built on the property in what is now known as the upper meadow, across from property still owned by Nina (Dill) Hurdle. The house was razed prior to 1950. Presumably about a third of the land was under agricultural production (plough scars are visible in an aerial photograph of 1978). About 1970, Lorne Thomas Newport of R.R.1, Wardsville acquired the property from his grandfather Newport and for the next several years pastured cattle on the old fields, adjacent to property owned by his brother Harvey Newport and his mother, Eva Newport. Selective logging was done in the 1970s, 1980s and a small area was logged again in the early 1990s.