Fingle is proving to be a lively place to stimulate debate about the challenges of woodland management, and in particular, balancing the seemingly conflicting objectives of timber production and conservation. At Fingle, we are trying to develop strategies and management approaches that can provide benefits across the board and, as part of the demonstration programme, we are keen to share these experiences.
We recently hosted a visit from the South West Forestry and Woodland Advisory Committee (FWAC). This committee advises the Forestry Commission on its work in the South West, ranging from Gloucestershire and Dorset down to the Isles of Scilly.
It is chaired by Dr Mike Moser, a woodland owner and ecosystem management consultant. Other members include:
- Peter Wilkinson, Greenspace design and planning consultant
- Roger Griffin, Natural England
- Gavin Bloomfield, RSPB
- Justin Milward, Woodland Trust
- John Wilding, Head of Forestry, Clinton Devon Estates
- David Pengelly, forestry consultant, Canopy Land Use
- Geraint Richards, Head Forester, Duchy of Cornwall
- Melanie Sealey, Rural Development Officer, Devon County Council
- Sam Whatmore, Director, Forest Fuels
- Helen Bentley-Fox
- Caroline Harrison
There interests and experience variously encompass land ownership and management, environmental, social and access issues and working with local communities.
The agenda for the meeting focused on the following areas:
- The effectiveness and strength of the partnership between the Woodland Trust and National Trust and its ability to manage Fingle’s significant forest area.
- The development of local supply chains for timber extraction and the ability to manage the woods within the context of the key objectives of Ancient Woodland Restoration.
- The implications and feasibility of plantation on ancient woodland (PAWS) restoration on private landholdings including the adequacy of current grants and prescriptions.
- The financial viability of Ancient Woodland restoration, including sources of financial assistance (such as England Rural Development Programme and the current Countryside Stewardship Scheme) and implications post Brexit.
- The need to ensure ecological resilience in the face of tree diseases, changes to the forest structure and climate change.
Throughout we were seeking to establish what lessons might be learnt from Fingle for woodland management more generally and give considerations to the implications of the wider political, environmental and financial context.
Eleanor, Fingle’s Community Engagement Officer, also attended the demonstration event and commented “we feel really privileged at Fingle to be able to draw such an expert group together to visit the site and see the experimental work we’re undertaking. We benefit from their experience and the challenging and interesting questions they pose. It’s obvious from reactions on the day that the experts already think there is a lot to take away”. As Dr Mike Moser, chair of SW Forestry and Woodlands Advisory Committee said:
“The remarkable partnership between the Woodland Trust and the National Trust at Fingle Woods was an inspiration for us all. The restoration of Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites is certainly not an exact science, and the experiences you are gaining in such a challenging site will be invaluable to woodland owners and managers across the SW”.