Gareth Price

Woodland on the Forest is a valuable habitat and annual management is carried out to improve its ecology, amenity and commercial value.

The trees you will see most commonly in the wooded areas of the Forest are sweet chestnut, hazel, alder, silver birch, oak and Scots pine.

As you walk around the woodland you may see coppiced areas. Sweet chestnut is coppiced to provide material for barriers and fencing on the Forest; unused wood is used to heat the Forest Centre. Hazel is coppiced in the Cackle Street area and the hazel coppice wood provides habitat for Dormouse and also supports a number of rare plants including Butchers Broom, Twayblade, Helleborine and early Purple Orchid. Alder coppicing is carried out near Newbridge; the wood produced has no commercial value (it was once used for clog-making) but makes good firewood after seasoning. It also survives for a long time submerged and can be used as a base for trackways across wet areas. Poor specimens of silver birch and oak from thicket-stage woodland can lead to better quality trees. This kind of work improves access and may produce saleable wood in the future. The thinnings used to be sold for "turnery", that is domestic produce such as banisters, wooden spoons, brush heads and toys but, sadly, the local factory closed. Where there are grazing animals amongst the trees, coppicing isnt very successful due to the animals grazing of the re-growing shoots. To avoid this damage, the cutting is carried out above browsing height - this is called "pollarding" and was used in the Forest area to produce small round wood. The beautiful beech pollards in Legsheath or Five Hundred Acre wood have not been pollarded for perhaps a hundred years and would not survive being cut at this late stage.

There is no new tree planting on the Forest. Experience has shown that introduction of trees from outside the area is less effective at creating woodland than leaving areas to develop to woodland in a natural succession.

The Conservators have some responsibility for the safety of visitors, local properties and traffic on the roads. For this reason, trees have to be made safe, either by removal of unsafe limbs or by felling. The Conservators recognise that decaying trees, with rotting wood, actually support some of the most important wildlife, particularly invertebrates and fungi. Only trees which present a real danger are interfered with.

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