Garden blogs

Conserving woodland structure

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Managing the Woodlands

Thinning is an important element of woodland management, it allows light to reach the forest floor, encouraging a more diverse ground flora and allowing small trees and coppice regeneration to establish a varied understory. Those trees which are left are able to extend their canopies and develop into larger trees. Our dormice and many of our bird species need this varied structure, which provides food and shelter. Glades, dense pockets and mixed age trees are all valuable additions.

By encouraging regeneration and growth the woodlands are able to take in more CO2 which is locked up in the timber.

Without thinning woodlands become thick and dark, the forest floor loses its rich carpet of flowering plants. The trees become tall and drawn, and lose their vigour.

The woolly rhinos, boars, wolves and beavers have long since left our woodlands, meaning we are now the ones responsible for maintaining a diverse woodland ecology.

Historically woodlands were managed for timber or firewood, everything from spoons to gates to houses and ships required wood. As we become less reliant on wood, and source more timber from plantations, our small local woodlands and copses fall out of management.

The tithe maps show that our historic parkland and woodlands were carefully portioned out into numbered plots, with associated annual earnings. Whilst the landscape is designed and planted, it relies on management to maintain its form and vistas.

These days management of small woodlands is less about economics and more about conservation, although larger timber can be milled locally, smaller material is likely to end up as firewood or biofuel.

Here in the Garden we convert some of this into a high quality charcoal or are able to use it for green wood working. Equally important however is another much overlooked aspect of woodland management – dead wood. By leaving standing deadwood by ring barking, log piles and thin layers of woodchip we are able support an essential community of insects and fungi, each of which play important roles in our ecological systems, supporting birds, bats and small mammals. Overtime these will break down the dead wood, unlocking nutrients to support the remaining trees.

So whilst thinning may look destructive and wasteful, take a closer look and you will see the regeneration about to take place, the habitats being created and local jobs supported. Over the next few years you will also be able to see a historic landscape being uncovered, with lost vistas, dappled shade and banks of spring flowers revealing themselves in Paradise Regained.