There is a Woodland Management Plan, drafted and approved by the Forestry Commission, that divides the wood into six distinct compartments, each with its own character. The accompanying felling licence (current licence valid until 19 January 2025) allows for up to 5% of the trees to be felled in a given year, but in practice much fewer are taken and only the invasive sycamores and rhododendron are being removed. With each winter storm a number of older trees and boughs come down and these are removed where in the way – otherwise left to rot as habitat.
No part of a tree is wasted. The smaller branches are piled up as “dead hedges” at the woodland margins or left in brash piles as a refuge for wildlife. Larger branches, about one to two inches in diameter, are cut into short lengths and turned to charcoal in a mini kiln, about one cubic metre at a time. Larger branches and trunk are axed by hand, stored and air-dried for a year, then sold locally for firewood. Around 30 local households are supplied in this way. The longer, straighter lengths of the trunks are cut lengthways into planks, using a chainsaw jig, and these in turn are used to make benches and tables. As skill and interest from the public grows, more of the wood is now used for making household objects and carving.
Where space has been opened up there is an extensive programme of planting, usually larger trees of 1-8 to 2.4 metres tall to prevent the tips being eaten by deer. To date, over 1,000 such trees have been planted all over the site. Most new planting is native broadleaf species, with a few “specimen” trees for interest and biodiversity, and a few fruit trees for foraging. The list includes: oak, beech, hazel, alder, sweet chestnut, hornbeam, wild cherry, bird cherry, walnut, hawthorn, birch, alder, rowan, scots pine, black pine, willow, lime, field maple, hollyoak and crab apple. Edible fruit trees include apple, plum and cherry. On the “specimen” list, mostly to ornament the track-side, are amelanchier, deodar cedar, Himalayan birch, ginko, eucalyptus, juniper and zelkova. Some additional trees have been donated, so this is not the full list!
The pond, covering nearly an acre, is a major and defining feature of the wood. It had silted up very substantially, and never been dredged in living memory. During three weeks one September (the best time for nature) it was drained and substantially dredged. The fish – mostly perch and roach (and one large golden carp) were netted and transferred to a temporary home before release when the pond had refilled. Look out for the golden carp – over a foot long – he is called “Horace” and has been around for well over 10 years! The island at the far end was re-established and is a haven for nesting wildfowl. The pond has resident mallard and moorhens, and seasonal visitors such as kingfisher, heron, goosander, little grebe, cormorant and winter migrants.
The Woodland Management Plan recognises the aim of becoming a “Natural Health Service” and using it for therapeutic, educational and recreational purposes. It also acknowledges the heritage features.
Volunteers have been very useful in getting the huge work of restoration and regeneration achieved, and it could not have been done without them. Special thanks to the AONB volunteers, Open Country, and Men in Sheds, and a host of friends, family and individual volunteers, many of whom have stories to tell of cherished moments in these woods.