On a beautiful clear day last week members of Confor undertook a field visit to Fingle Woods, North Dartmoor. The Woodland Trust and The National Trust hosted the event which started at a spectacular viewpoint with a bird’s eye view of the Teign Valley and the northern slopes of Fingle. With a backdrop of the predominantly conifer clad slopes of Fingle, the group learnt about the history of ownership and the management of the former oak coppice, to the conversion to conifer in the 20th century during the Dartington era and the recent joint purchase by the trusts in August 2013. The group heard how it has been a unique opportunity for the two organisations to work in partnership.
Standing looking up at a stand of unthinned Douglas fir, next to an area of old oak coppice, provided an opportunity to discuss the long term vision for the site. It was a chance to debate woodland management and restoration. What resulted was a very open and engaging debate, with detailed discussion on the practicalities of managing ancient woodland sites with discussion on; which species to promote, species resilience, CCF and which period of history to take a lead from. It became evident that the real issues of practical management of the site were more complex and interesting than had perhaps been publicised. The commitment to sharing learning at Fingle, as active management gets restarted, appeared to really capture the interest of those present.
As we climbed up into the woods Euroforest explained how they were removing an infected area of larch to combat the spread of Phytophthora ramorum. This lead to queries about the local markets for timber and how to support local contractors and wood businesses.
There was a detailed discussion about deer management as we looked at a deer exclosure plot being used to assess browsing levels, and of course the dreaded grey squirrel and its damaging impact.
At the conclusion there appeared to be acknowledgement of the great benefit of talking and sharing experiences amongst forestry managers. These events demonstrate how crucial it is to spend time out in the woods talking. This was much more than a walk in the woods.