Woodland Assessment

This is a predominantly Oak, Beech, Birch, and Sweet Chesnut woodland in a shallow valley of clay over mudstone, with small amounts of nodular gypsum. Although no fossils have been found as yet, the search continues. Along the western edge is a small stream which is fed from a natural spring in the south-western corner of the wood. The area around the spring, and also the north western corner is bog. Both the bog areas and the stream being some 5 metres below the average ground level. The woodland gently rises from the north at a rate of around 1 in 30. Access to the woodland is via a well made private road which forms the eastern boundary. The southern and western sides adjoin farmland currently used for grazing livestock. The northern boundary adjoins further woodland of a similar makeup, which collectively form what used to be Lodgegate Plantation.

Due to the lack of thinning since being replanted in 1990 the majority of the wood is thicket, from a mixture of planted saplings and natural regeneration. Due to the density of the thicket it is not currently possible to carry out a full biological survey. Species are being recorded as they are discovered, and being entered into the Flora and Fauna section. There is some evidence of coppicing, but it is not clear whether this was ever carried out on a planned basis, or is the result of previous clearance work.

Objectives

The main managment objectives are as follows, in priority order:

  1. Restore to managed status.
  2. Provide a range of wildlife habitats
  3. Study traditional woodland crafts

Opportunities and Constraints

Wood Products

The thinning process will generate significant amounts of wood. The majority of this will be left on site to provide various wildlife habitats. This will still allow the extraction of suitable wood for various uses.

Firewood. Suitable timber will be cut and sold as firewood. It is not expected to carry out this activity on a commercial scale, but will be sold or bartered on an individual basis.

Brash. It is envisaged that a small range of products be produced from the stock of brashwood. Items such as gate hurdles and besom brooms are amoungst those being considered.

Charcoal. It is hoped that a profitable amount of charcoal can be produced from the thinnings. Barbeques will be the initial market with the possibility of expanding into artist's charcoal once the process has been refined.

Non-wood Products

There is the opportunity for the small-scale production of a number of non-wood products. These include nuts and berries, as well as holly cuttings. These will be sold on an individual basis.

Constraints

Tree Preservation Order

A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) exists covering the entire area. This was obtained some years ago in order to preserve the local landscape.

Grey Squirrel

There is a large amount of visible squirrel damage throughout the wood. The thinning process will remove terminally damaged trees. A plan of action to reduce squirrel damage using approved methods is currently being formulated.

Red and Roe Deer

There is some evidence of deer damage to trees. However the local deer population is managed to reduce the amount of damage to an acceptable level. Trees terminally damaged will be removed during the thinning process. No other action is planned at this time.

Analysis

The initial survey work has confirmed that the area is in a serious state of neglect, which is not beneficial to either the wildlife or the surrounding environment. Having had discussions with various interested parties and experts, it has become clear that a large-scale programme of thinning needs to be undertaken to restore the woodland. Due to the current overgrown state, it is not possible to carry out a detailed biological or land survey at this time.

An initial phase of work involving the installation of a network of access tracks to allow vehicle and foot access to the site has been undertaken. This work was carried out under the Woodland Grant Scheme, with all relevant licenses being obtained through this scheme.

Later phases will involve clearing and thinning of the site, favouring broadleaf species, notably Beech, Oak and Sweet Chestnut, whilst maintaining biodiversity.

Management Prescriptions

Construction of tracks

In order to carry out a proper site survey it was necessary to create a system of access tracks. A track leads from the main gate to the centre of the western edge, and then continues to the northern gate. A turning off of this track has also been constructed leading to the south-western corner. A quarry was opened up to the west of the track to provide stone for the surfacing of all vehicle tracks. The map above shows the original plan, but this needed to be adapted due to local conditions.

These tracks were constructed as follows: A track 3.2 metres wide, excavated to a depth of 225mm, with a hardcore or equivalent surface to a depth of 20cm. Where necessary, drainage ditches are provided to remove runoff from the tracks. Hardcore has been extracted from a quarry opened up midway along the western edge. Once the stone had been extracted, the area was to be landscaped to form a wildlife-friendly pond. Unfortunately the underlying rock is too porous for a pond to form, and so other uses for this area are being considered.

Several tracks will be constructed to the same standard leading from the main track to provide access to other areas of the wood as required. The exact positioning of these will be determined once the main track has been cleared and the lie of the land can be assessed. However the positions shown on the accompanying map will be followed wherever possible. Any significant deviations from the indicated routes will be notified to the Forestry Commission for approval prior to construction.

Footpaths will also be cleared and maintained as rides throughout the wood. These will provide access to specific areas where work is being carried out, and will be opened up as necessary. A small number of derelict rides already exist, and these will be reopened and maintained.

Full survey

Once the trackways have been constructed, a full site survey will be carried out in order to establish an accurate picture of the current state of the wood, and to prepare a 5-year plan.

Action Plan

Note: All works are to be carried out according to relevant Forestry Commission guidelines unless specifically stated otherwise. Applications for WGS grants will be made wherever appropriate.