A partnership between the Woodland Trust and the National Trust

Restoration, demonstration and discussion…

Last week  saw a visit from the Forestry Commissions’ West England Forest District.  The team from West England and there colleagues are responsible for the management of the public forest estate from the Forest of Dean to the far West of Cornwall.

Image by P. Moody  – The team from West England included: Ben Robinson (Planning Forester); Peter Kelsall  (Planning & Environment Manager); Fran Raymond-Barker (Planning Forester); Rebecca Wilson (District Ecologist); Peter Devenport (Assistant Ecologist); Della Joint (GIS Technician); and Jon Burgess (Beat Forester).

 

The visit was focused around the range of restoration activity at Fingle undertaken in recent years. We began at  Coleridge Wood to look at a recently felled area of larch identified with the disease Phytophthora ramorum and in particular the decisions made about restocking.  We have had some good fortune at Fingle as many of the areas of larch recently felled had a good percentage of naturally regenerating sessile oak or former coppice which had survived for many decades as part of the conifer crop. Another area of focus in Coleridge was the complexities of balancing felling operations when dealing with legal framework for European Protected Species and what mitigating techniques and planning can be put in place to protected species such as dormice during felling operations.

For more information on Phytophthora see https://finglewoods.org.uk/2015/11/26/coleridge-wood-and-the-much-feared-phytophthora-pregnancy-test/

For more information on the dormice at Fingle see https://finglewoods.org.uk/2016/11/04/getting-close-to-nature-training-to-survey-dormice/

Image P. Moody  – Coleridge Wood  – Restocking with native broadleaves in 1.5m tubes in the foreground

Image P. Moody – Coleridge Wood – regenerating oak retained during felling operations, no planting needed

The second stop was to discuss the implementation of continuous cover silvicultural strategies in around 40 hectares of  young conifer at Fingle. The demonstration is intended to determine the value of a Continuous Cover approach to sustaining a timber resource in the long term and to balance this against the benefits of ancient woodland restoration and conservation objectives.  The project is being led by Lawrence Weston the South West Operations Manager for the Woodland Trust. The project has been developed with advice and guidance from Gary Kerr of Forest Research.

The third stop focussed on the management challenges of working steep slopes, and how the impact of modern machinery brings both benefits of efficiency and safer working conditions but the downsides of needing wider tracks and the impact large machinery can have on soils in poor weather.

Image P. Moody –  Working steep slopes limits machinery to the track network, requiring long hours of ardous winching

Image P. Moody  – Winched stems neatly presented for mechanised processing by a harvester

The final visit of the day took in the spectacular views of the recently cleared Wooston Hill Fort. The hill fort is a scheduled ancient monument and the dense conifer and birch tree cover constituted threat to the archaeology and the monument was considered “at risk”. Rangers and volunteers from the National Trust worked in tandem with local horse loggers John Williamson and William Hampton to remove the tree cover in a way to minimise disturbance to the hill fort and to limit the need for heavy machinery. The cleared material was processed for low grade biomass.

Image  P. Moody – As the trees have been removed the grandeur of the location becomes obvious as the vistas and obvious defensive advantages of the location become apparent

The team from West England Forest District were kind enough to share their thoughts of the day and to offer a return outing to a few of there sites in the future:

“I was struck by the similarities in approach taken to PAWS restoration by Woodland Trust, National Trust & FC.  Also the work of the volunteer groups at Fingle Wood is clearly of significant benefit in delivering the quality of site management particularly at the hillfort where volunteer input has aided the work of local staff in removing trees in an exemplary fashion from this Scheduled site.”

“Good to see that we’ve got the same type of issues and are tackling them in similar ways.  Useful insight into alternative methods of timber sale too.”

“I found everything to be a most interesting and informative afternoon, and look forward to reading and learning more from the exceptional handouts, especially ‘The vision of Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst’.”

“Just thought it was a really rewarding project to be involved in – an opportunity to move the woodland away from a dark, monotonous coniferised pheasant farm of the past into a more diverse, dynamic, sunny and interesting place to visit.  Be really keen to visit again in 10 years time and see the changes taking shape.”

“I would echo all of these comments. I had heard great things/rumours about what was happening Fingle Wood and I was not disappointed. The project and its aim are ambitious given the site and its limitations but all is achievable and seemingly sustainable. The visit, to me, demonstrated the great benefit of partnership working, pooling resources and having an array of mechanisms for working a diverse woodland. It was heartening to see similar challenges being faced and techniques employed to overcome them. I even tweeted about it!”

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