Our woodland management plan
We do have a woodland management plan for our 3.5 acres of forest which, as those who have visited know, is a very special part of the mix of habitats and experiences that our garden has to offer. The problem is that aforementioned management plan is in my head…
So having been invited to host a visit on the 18th June for members of the Small Woods Association is an excellent prompt for me to commit it to paper. It will also have the benefit that Ian and I will have, hopefully, a common understanding of what it is we want to achieve with our bit of forest and how we are going to do it!
The intention has always been to write a management plan since we first bought the ex-Christmas tree plantation adjoining our garden 4 years ago. However, actually doing the management (and gardening) tends to fully occupy the time that would otherwise be available for writing the plan..
We have been gardening here with trees and amongst trees for nearly 40 years and now over the past 4 years, managing the adjoining 3.5 acres of conifer woodland, opening up the canopy, allowing natural regeneration to occur and light to be cast upon the hazel
and willow coppice and garden. The forest provides firewood, construction timber (for example for the natural swimming pond), coppice products, foraging opportunities, woodchip for compost making and paths and biodiversity and public access (on days when the garden is open to the public).
So without further procrastination here are a few photos (in no particular order of priority) of work in progress/challenges to be sorted/success stories so far which will inform the issues to be addressed in THE PLAN.
First issue to be addressed was fencing the area to keep out the semi-feral forest sheep and immediately, instead of having bare ground and conifer needles, we now already have, in the Spring, swathes of wood sorrel
bluebells, wild raspberries, flowering currant
and lots of natural regeneration including cherry, holly, ash (all desirable) but also bramble
sycamore and Western Hemlock
which are not so desirable – more detail and explanation in THE PLAN.
Letting in more light is a key to managing what we have – mostly Norway Spruce planted as Christmas trees before I came here – nearly 40 years ago – and having received no management during that time. The trees are now 70-80 feet tall (some bigger). There are 2 stands of magnificent Douglas Fir
which are even taller. Having acquired a felling licence to fell 5 of them to provide timber for the construction of our natural swimming pond we know that they are even bigger – some were 150 feet tall. These need a bit more than Ian and his chainsaw.
There are also a few Sitka Spruce and Grand Fir, a couple of mature Ash and a huge Sycamore
(in which this Summer we will be building a tree house for our grandson). So another project to be flagged up in THE PLAN is to check out exactly what we do have in terms of species and label them so that visitors are able to appreciate that they are not all ‘fir trees’.
Not content with what we have we are also planting new….
Firewood – lots of it – we are not exactly ‘off grid’ but we heat the house and cook and boil the kettle on wood.
Coppice products for the garden – the usual pea sticks
wood chip for paths etc.
Biodiversity – standing dead wood
for the bugs and beasties and woodpeckers and badgers…
Introducing other stuff like wild garlic,
watercress and other species of elder with longer flowering periods.
Foraging – we hosted a fungi foraging day in Autumn 2016 and now know a little bit more about what we have and what is edible.
The moss garden. In January and February through into March mosses come into their own.
Cherishing what we have and protecting from invasion by other species such as grass and adding to the diversity is a project in itself in one special area in particular underneath the big sycamore next to the stream.
Fixed point photography. We have noticed big changes already as we have fenced the area and started thinning out the trees to let in more light. We must record these changes. We are very good at doing stuff and taking a photo after. We are not so good at doing the ‘before’ photos and recording what’s happened in response to our intervention.
And of course
Then just outside the forest, along the river bank we have vistas such as these
Watch this space. We will have THE PLAN before the 18th June.