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European Protected Species – To Protect and Preserve

As the Fingle Woods felling programme continues, the larch clearance work at Coleridge Wood is making steady progress. In response to the recently issued Plant Health Notice (see blog 26th November) it is being done with a focus on protecting the existing broadleaved woodland habitat and, though the work is urgent, the contractors are taking care to minimise disturbance to the woodland soil and ground flora. This low impact work can be achieved by using hand operated machinery where possible; the felling team have been working at Fingle Woods for the last two winters and are used to operating in sensitive woodland habitats.
As a result, the young oaks and smaller native shrubs that have been making slow progress in the semi-shade are being revealed now the larch canopy is opened up. It’s their opportunity to thrive in higher light levels and the wild flowers and ground flora will also take advantage of an increase in sunlight.

Felled larch leaves the broadleaved trees and shrubs to thrive

Felled larch leaves the broadleaved trees and shrubs to thrive

Before the work started Devon Wildlife Consultants provided some guidance on actions to conserve the European Protected Species on site and one of their main concerns was to protect the hibernating dormice at ground level. Using strictly limited winching routes will help to prevent damage to their nests and a new set of nest boxes will provide the animals with additional protection in spring and summer next year. This method is known to increase the breeding opportunities for dormice.
After a site inspection, the works appear to be going well and the protection measures have clearly been doing their job. The soil is largely undisturbed and remains well covered with the herbs and shrubs that would be expected on a healthy woodland floor.

Stumps will be the only remaining sign of the larch plantation. The self-seeded conifers will be carefully removed by hand.

Stumps will be the only remaining sign of the larch plantation.
The self-seeded conifers will be carefully removed by hand.

This larch felling would have been done at some point during the overall restoration programme but the Plant Health Notice has had the effect of bringing this work forwards. So far, the results are looking good and the spring time will reveal a new look woodland without a larch tree to be seen.

by Matt Parkins

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