Čerchovské hvozdy National Nature Reserve

The Čerchovské hvozdy NNR was declared on 27th June, 2000. The reserve is located in the southern section of Český les PLA and is the largest specially protected area in the Český les border mountain range with its area of 327 ha. Čerchovské hvozdy NNR lies on the slopes of Mt. Čerchov (1042 m), Malý Čerchov (988 m) and Sedlová jedlina (927 m) in the parishes of Česká Kubice, Dolní Folmava, Chodov and Pec pod Čerchovem in the Plzeňský kraj – Plzeň Region.

The reserve lies inside the formerly militarised border along the Iron Curtain and access was forbidden for many years. This fact, together with the poor access for forestry machinery, means that the territory is little disturbed by human activity. The summit of Mt.Čerchov with a lookout tower (Kurzova věž) and a tourist chalet (built in the 19th century) and the military surveillance installations (built in the 1960s) is surrounded by deforested and devastated terrain and is not included in the NNR.

The main subject of the protection are preserved near-natural beech and mixed forest growths at a montane level with characteristic plant and animal species.

The territory belongs to the geomorphological district of the Haltravská hornatina hilly region, which covers the most notable parts of the Čerchov forest and is one of the four basic subunits of the Český les Unit. This is a block-built flattened hilly region with typical landscape features including distinctive horst-like and brachyanticlinal ridges with frost-riven cliffs, cryoplanation plateaux, boulder streams and talus fields. Numerous rocky outcrops, which were emphasized by erosive activity, are also found here.

The basement consists predominantly of cordierite-biotite migmatic gneisses and paragneisses of the Český les part of the Moldanubian Zone. The Mt. Čerchov massif is a cupolaform neck in the place of maximum uplift, which is emphasized by the denudation of the surrounding ridges by weathering and erosion (tors, frost-riven cliffs, boulder accumulations).

The vegetation of the Čerchovské hvozdy is dominated by forest communities. The preserved natural growths are predominantly acidophilous beech forests with fragments of herb-rich beech forest with higher species diversity on richer soils. Talus and ravine forest can be found on inaccessible and rocky slopes with a tree species composition including maple, elm, ash and lime. The small streams are fringed with softwood alluvial growths with predominant black alder in the tree layer. The most valuable alluvial forest community is preserved in the Chladná Bystřice stream valley. Some massive examples of silver fir (Abies alba) can still be seen today in protected, sheltered areas and occasional examples of yew (Taxus baccata) also grow here.

In the undergrowth we can find interrupted club-moss (Lycopodium annotinum), dog’s mercury (Mercurialis perenis) and in the herb-rich beech forests mezereon (Daphne mezereum). The perennial honesty (Lunaria rediviva) grows on rich, damp soils and around the springs we can find white butterbur (Petasites albus) and opposite-leaved golden saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium).

The fauna on the NNR territory is predominantly of a Hercynian montane and submontane origin. Typical bird species in the old deciduous forests are the stock dove (Columba oenas), red-breasted flycatcher (Ficedula parva) and the woodcock (Scolopax rusticola). Numerous hollow trees play host to a range of owls including tawny owl (Strix aluco), pygmy owl (Glaucidium passerinum) and the rarer Tengmalm’s owl (Aegolius funereus). The largest of the gallinaceous birds – the capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) also lives here. A programme to breed capercaillie in captivity and release them into the wild has been in operation in the Czech Republic since 1998 and birds bred in captivity have also been released in Čerchovské hvozdy. The normal species of forest fauna live in the Čerchov forests with the exception of our largest feline predator, the lynx (Lynx lynx) which was hunted to extinction in the Czech Republic in the 19th century. The return of the lynx is the result of reintroduction programmes in Bayerischer Wald in 1970 – 1972 and Šumava NP in 1982 – 1989.

Unlike other areas of Český les PLA the Čerchovské hvozdy forests have relatively high visitor numbers. A network of hiking and cross-country skiing trails cross the area and lead to the summit of Mt. Čerchov. The forested mountain massif rises to 1042 km and is the highest peak of the 100 km long belt of forested mountains stretching from the Všerubský průsmyk pass to Dyleň in Cheb district.

The rocky summit of Čerchov was a wilderness area until 1894 when the KČT – Czech Tourist Club built the first wooden lookout tower on the summit, followed by a tourist hut in 1897. This was named the “chýše Pasovského” (Pasovský Hut) after the president of the Club Vratislav Pasovský, who designed the cottage and provided the interior fixtures. A newer stone-built lookout tower – Kurzova věž was built on Mt. Čerchov in 1904 – 1905. After the Second World War the summit was taken over by the army and the Čerchov area remained closed to the public for nearly half a century. The folk traditions of the Chodsko region are celebrated in towns and villages in the foothills under the Čerchov forests and the most notable celebrations are held in Domažlice and Postřekov close to Čerchovské hvozdy NNR and also in Klenčí pod Čerchovem, Trhanov and Chodov.