As the larger scale forestry operations begin at Fingle this autumn there are a number of smaller areas of conifers being thinned to improve wildlife habitats. Small scale felling activity is starting this week in two other areas. Just off the road at the top of Cod Wood some line thinning of Douglas fir is in the safe hands of local contractors Jim White and Ken Webber. Both have many years of experience in the management of woodland in sensitive areas. Their brief is to cut and remove every eighth row of conifers to open up the woods and allow the hazel understorey to thrive. This sporadic layer of shrubs has been under the heavy shade of the conifers for a number of decades and it is a testament to their will to survive that they are still hanging on in the darkness. This work is carefully planned to increase the penetration of sunlight which will benefit woodland flora and fauna. The work site is adjacent to a known dormouse habitat and the hazel scattered among the conifers are used as a food source for dormice. While the felling work will allow in additional sunlight it will maintain the aerial links that the dormice use to travel around and the brash and offcuts will be stacked to give additional shelter for all small mammals.
More work is going on just by the riverside track near Upperton Weir where another favourite area for dormice is being managed by the National Trust team. As well as using this as an opportunity to train volunteers, the chainsaw gang are “cleaning” out conifers from the broadleaved areas and line thinning other conifers to improve light levels in the adjacent plantation. Alongside the stacked brash piles they are taking care to leave cut timber lengths ready for horse-drawn extraction. This again will reduce the use of heavy machinery and minimise ground disturbance.
These small scale works are carried out at this time of year as its lies between the bird nesting season and when dormice are starting to build ground level hibernation nests. As dormice are considered to be an “indicator” species, this work will not just benefit them but should provide wider benefits to many other wild plants and animals, creating a vibrant and diverse woodland.
by Matt Parkins