There is an islet of untouched nature at a distance of six kilometers from Zelva – it is the republican biological reserve "Medukhovo" with the area of more than 1400 hectares. The decision to establish a nature reserve on the territory of the Zelva district was made by the resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus in April, 1996. Initially, the area of the reserve was just over 1300 hectares, but later 120 hectares more were joined. The reserve was created in order to preserve the natural complex in its natural state and to support its biological diversity.
"FATHER" FOR THE NATURE RESERVE
Sergey Mikanovich is called the "father" of the Medukhovo nature reserve. For a long time, he was the head of the district inspection of natural resources and environmental protection. Under him, the forest tract became a protected object. Sergey Ivanovich knows every tree there in the literal sense and conducts excursions for those who want to. The reserve is always open to visitors, with the exception of fire-hazardous periods, but you can get to the unique place only on foot. It is better to leave the car at the information signs that are placed around the perimeter of the protected area. Of course, in the summer not only tourists, but also inhabitantshastenthere. One can pick berries and gather mushrooms or simply enjoy the clear air and beautiful scenery there.
“In Volkovysk and Zelva districts only two such natural forest tracts are left. We have a reserve "Medukhovo", and in Volkovysk district they have "Castle Forest," Sergey Mikanovichsaid. “Together with Ruzhanydense forest in Brest region, they form "Great plain trio (the triangle)". These forest tracts are almost at the same distance from each other-- 20-30 kilometers -- and they are created in order to preserve an absolutely waterless classical valley or drained fertile lands. While the reserve was being created, an extra-budgetary fund of nature protection appeared. Getting encouragement from the district authorities we invited groups from the Institute of Experimental Botany and the Institute of Zoology of the National Academy of Sciences. They worked on the territory of the reserve and all the districtfor two years. After that theyproduced recommendations on the rules of use and on the designation of the valuable forest tract boundaries.”
TO SAVE THE CLASSICS OF THE FOREST
Medukhov forests serve as a natural complex standard of the western part of Belarus and they are a part of nature protection and migration channels. The boundaries of the reserve are set in such a way to maximize the plant and animal diversity of the territory, because there are unique places of rare and disappearing species population.
“On the territory of "Medukhovo" there are 8 such especially valuable lots. Among them there are the habitats of protected species of plants and animals, forest complexes preserved in their natural state, including areas of high-age oak forests, pine forests and spruce forests, rare in their floral composition, aesthetic environmental and soil protection properties,”Alexey Golovach, a forestryofficer of Zelva Forestry, explained.
The forest tract is valued because of its mixed composition, which has not been touched by a man hand for a long time. Slender birches alternate with emerald-green firs there, venerable oaks and pines neighbour with a smooth-stemmed hornbeam. The relief also makes the territory of the reserve unique– rising grounds and low places supersede each other smoothly, moreover the forest becomes sometimes lighter,sometimes darker, depending on the tree species growingthere. The highest point --almost 230 meters above sea level --is located near the northern border of the reserve. The territory goes down graduallyfrom the north-east to the south-west, to the valley of the Zelvyanka River.
In the reserve there are black alder thickets and balsamic poplar plantations, and only its male specimens, they do not give poplar fluff. The red Canadian oak also grows in the forest tract, but it is considered an invasive species there, as it is not typical for our forests. A small plot with the plantings appeared there before the creation of the reserve.
“Natural plantations make up more 90 percent of the total area of the forest, which has been growing here for centuries. If large and old trees fall and break, the foresters do not remove them. It allows to preserve biological diversity and some species of insects and plants. According to the regulations, only sanitary felling can be held here,” said Gennady Chigrin, head of the district inspectionof natural resources and environmental protection.
Practically there are no rivers and reservoirs on the territory of the reserve – only one small winding rivulet Artyukhovka flows in the forest tract, but the Zelva reservoir is widely spread out not far from “Medukhovo”.
HONEY AS A BRAND
The railway crosses the territory of the reserve, and not far away from it there is the village of Medukhovo, Medukhovo forest takes its namefrom it. And the very name "Medukhovo" casts over associations of fragrant and delicious honey.
“Practically every resident of the village used to have his own apiary. It was considered that such a mixed forest was an excellent source of delicious and health-giving honey, in general, thanks to the abundance ofmelliferous herbs. And that was bad if they didn’t gather a pood of honey from a beehive during the season,” Sergey Mikanovich said.
Now the houses are used mainly as summer cottages there, apiaries are left only at some of them. In the neighboring village of Voronichi, for example, there are only seven indigenes, and all of them have their own apiaries. And Medukhovo honey can be bought during fairs in the district centre. Moreover, it is easy to find it by the inscriptions – "Honey from the Medukhovo reserve".
BADGER HOLES AND A POLISH ROMAN - CATHOLIC CHURCH UNDERGROUND
There is a legend among the inhabitants about the Polish Roman –Catholic church, which once upon a time was located on a hill in the forest, but eventually it sank under the ground. The rising ground several meters high ends with a sharp precipice, and next to it you can meet venerable oaks and pines with perfectly straight trunks and luxuriant crown. Since that time this place assumes the name Kastelevschina. As if the felled crisscross and covered with malachite mosstrunks of old oaksserve the symbol of something. Not far away we notice beaver traces, and then roe deer ones. There are places in the reserve where double and triple trees grow everywhere.
Thanks to The Red Book badger that lives on the edge of the forest, the place that the animal has chosen is called "Badger Holes".
At the forestry they say that the lynx appeared in the country about two years ago. From time to time the foresters notice its traces on the territory of the reserve. The wild boar, the roe deer, the elk, the deer, the fox and the raccoon dogs live there. Besides The Red Book badger and lynx, the hazel dormouse is found in the reserve.
The lesser spotted eagle, the field hen-harrier, the buzzard, the wasp, the grouse, the cheglok, as well as the owls – the gray owl and the eared owl are the most spectacular and the largest among the birds that nest in "Medukhovo". From the biodiversity conservation point of view,the common zhulan, the cedar, the garden bunting and many other species living there are considered to be very rare and important.
"TESTING AREA" FOR BIOLOGISTS
In the summer the research workers of the landscape ecology research laboratory of theBSU geographic faculty came to the reserve. They studied the specific composition of the vegetable kingdom and the animal world in the forest tract. On the basis of the life investigation of the territory they found the places of growing wild plants and lichens included in The Red Book of the Republic of Belarus. The greenish henotheque, the Sarmatian censer, or the forest tobacco, the Smooth Pea, the white cinquefoil, the martagon lily, the eggleaftwaybladeand many othersare among them.
A very large population of the sword-lily, or the wild gladiolus, grew previously on the territory of the reserve in the strip from the railway. And it was at the time when they regularly mowed down the grass to make hay. No one has been examining thequestion for many years, so other plants have supplanted the wild gladiolus from the lot.
13 species of the Embryophytagrow on the territory of the reserve in all and the habitats of 8 species of animals are identified there. They are subject to protection in accordance with the national legislation.
Theyare seriously engaged in the study of the native land natureat secondary school No. 3. The high forms pupils together with the teachers compiled an ecological passport of the republican reserve, and from time to time they together with the district inspection of natural resources and conservation of surroundings conduct researches on the territory. For example, thanks to the study of the needles of the Scots pine, they succeeded in clearing up that the air on the territory of" Medukhovo " is surprisingly clear. The tourists who come to look at the local landscapes also confirmed it: many people are dizzy after a short walk along the forest.
“ZELVA DIARY” AND A TENT CAMP
"Zelva diary" is one of the famous tourist routes of the district, the reserve "Medukhovo" is included in it. The route length is more than 100 kilometres, therefore it is best to get a bicycle during the trip. The route is built in such a way that it lies through many unique places of Zelva district. For example, the tourists have the opportunity on the way to get into country – house museum "Old Village", there is the only private museum of insects in Belarus. It is in Voronichi, and it is very close to the Medukhovo nature reserve. The owner of the museum is already known to us Sergey Mikanovich. He is a biologist not only by vocation, he has been collecting insects for more than 50 years. The exposition of the museum is represented by five thousand species of various insects not only from Belarus, but also from other countries. There are also tropical butterflies and beetles – the owner of the museum received them during an exchange with colleagues from distant lands.Some part of the exposition was collected there, in Medukhovo nature reserve. During the excursion through the museum you can also see a male mantis. According to Sergey Ivanovich, until 2010it was difficult to meet this insect in our part of the world, because it is rather a tropical species. For ten years itsettled down firmly in our forests: individuals of different sex are found more and more oftennow.
Besides excursions to the museum, Sergey Mikanovich offers his guests to walk through the Medukhovo nature reserve and see with their own eyes picturesque oak groves and hornbeam copses, rare and disappearing plants. A pedestrian excursion through the forest tract takes about an hour. Surely, route "Zelva diary" does not end there – the guests of the region can drop in at country - house "Veras", at the potter’s workshop and at the handicrafts and traditional culture house. And before long they plan to create a small tourist ground on a specially allotted plot of the reserve.