AncientAncient
WoodlandWoodland
RestorationRestoration
Jim Smith-Wright, Project Officer, Low Weald
Letting the light inLe...
•10 Project Officers providing advice
•1,200 landowners will be engaged
•AWR information hub created
•2,400 people engaged...
Ancient Woodland Restoration
The Low Weald Project AreaThe Low Weald Project Area
The Low WealdThe Low Weald
Ancient Woodland Restoration
GeologyGeology
Ancient Woodland Restoration
Photo Courtesy of High WealdPhoto Courtesy of High Weald
AONBAONB
HeritageHeritage
Why are Ancient WoodsWhy are Ancient Woods
so Important?so Important?
Sources of life for centuriesSources of life for cen...
Conifers in Ancient WoodlandConifers in Ancient Woodland
Ancient Woodland Restoration
Ancient Woodland Restoration
Conifers in Ancient WoodlandConifers in Ancient Woodland
Why Restore Now?Why Restore Now?
Ancient Woodland Restoration
Principles of Ancient WoodlandPrinciples of Ancient Woodland
RestorationRestoration
Ancient Woodland Restoration
• Survey ...
WhatWhat’’s on Offer?s on Offer?
Ancient Woodland Restoration
• Advice
• Assessment
• Training
• Guidance
WhatWhat’’s ons ...
Ancient Woodland Restoration
Guidance & More Information
Thank youThank you
Jim Smith-Wright
07768 506664
JimSmith-Wright@woodlandtrust.org.uk
Ancient Woodland Restoration
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West Weald Landscape Project Conference: Low weald ancient woodland restoration project

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Presentation from West Weald Landscape Project Conference 22 May 2014

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  • Intro
    Self
    Work for WT on AWR project in Low Weald
    Talking today about Ancient Woodland Restoration Project as a whole
    Specifically what is being done in the Low Weald area
    And the principles involved
  • Looking at Project as a whole across UK
    WT outreach project to facilitate restoration of ancient woodland
    Also engage public with project & raise awareness of ancient woodland’s significance
    Taking forward key work & research carried out in pilot areas:
    Project Officers in 10 priority restoration regions across UK, incl myself in Low Weald
    Working with key partners in each region
    Launched in England this week at CFS
    HLF funding nearly £2 Million of project costs
    Remainder (c. £1 Million) from other sources
    Focusing on privately PAWS (Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites):
    Private woodlands identified by Independent Panel on Forestry as standing to benefit most from restoration
  • Low Weald covers large part of SE England below London, including parts of East & West Sussex, Kent & Surrey
    Comprises mainly vale of Wealden clay: elongated horseshoe around High Weald sandstone outcrop
    Woodland prominent across Low Weald covering 13%
    Well over half is ancient woodland: 18,000 ha, of which 4,500 ha is PAWS
    c.3000 ha of PAWS in private ownership (target resource)
    PAWS broadly scattered across Low Weald, but concentrated in West & South of project area, & around Ashford
    Low Weald project hosted by High Weald AONB
    Working partnership with, amongst others, Petra at Sussex Wildlife Trust:
    "West Weald Landscape” & "Gatwick Green Space” project areas
  • (Private PAWS, West Sussex)
    Geological character of Low Weald created by erosion of soft heavy clay over time by network of rivers:
    Leaving broad undulating vale with localised ridges of limestone & sandstone
    Narrower streams also create gill woodlands (refer to photo)
    Important microhabitat characteristic of area
    Heavy clay soils also make woodland access & harvesting operations difficult (without causing damage)
  • Long tradition of working woodlands in Low Weald reflected by many large coppice stools, banks & ditches
    Particularly characteristic is use of ‘stub’ trees to mark boundaries
    Sawpits (Photo: Working Sawpit, possibly within Ashdown Forest)
    Evidence in many ancient woods of area’s long history of charcoal burning for iron & glass industry:
    Charcoal hearths
    Extraction pits
    More impressive earthworks e.g. hammer ponds, provided power for ironworks
  • (Private ASNW in E Sussex)
    Hopefully preaching to converted here but… to quote from our very eloquent WT Messaging Guide(!) “If you ask someone to picture a wood, they’re likely to imagine lush, green woodland with towering trees, flowers carpeting the floor and wildlife peaking out from the branches. It’s a vision from childhood and the stories we grew up with. They may not realise it but it’s a vision of ancient woodland…”
    However it goes way beyond just aesthetics, important for:
    Scarcity: just 2% of UK covered by ancient woodland
    Only 56% survives in a semi-natural state (i.e. has not become plantation).
    Biodiversity: ancient woodlands unique & irreplaceable. Soils developed undisturbed over centuries:
    As a result most biodiverse terrestrial habitat in UK
    Home to 232 of most endangered species, most endemic to ancient woods
    Ecosystem services: more on this later
    Culture: for their folklore, & leisure & learning opportunities
    History: as discussed, lack of disturbance in woods often means wealth of archaeology retained, missing from wider landscape:
    Sites can open window on how our ancestors lived & worked
  • (Scots Pine, Bedgebury Pinetum, Kent)
    WT not attempting to demonise conifers:
    Nothing inherently wrong with them (or plantations): can be very important asset, & very beautiful
    But generally not appropriate on ancient woodland
    Primarily because:
    Often fast growing, exotic species which outcompete native species for light & other resources
    Clear felling, soil cultivation & chemicals applied to establish plantations, has depleted / threatened ancient woodland features & communities
    Secondary effects:
    Acidification of soils & dense thatch of needles can suppress ground flora & broadleaf regeneration
    Damage to archaeology & soil communities from windblow & harvesting operations
    Comparatively poor biodiversity value of planted species
    Invasive nature of some species e.g. Hemlock – difficult to control once established
  • (Private PAWS West Sussex)
    To highlight this…
    Photo shows stifling pine monoculture: note almost complete lack of ground vegetation
    Even species such as pine, which have relatively thin canopy, can be a problem:
    Stands often neglected & not thinned as became uneconomic / otherwise difficult to work
    Subsequently become extremely dense & shady, & timber value further degraded
  • (Windblown spruce stand, private PAWS, W Sussex)
    Restoring PAWS only realistic way to increase area of ancient woodland
    But a time-limited opportunity:
    Many plantations due to be felled again:
    If re-stocked with further round of conifers, would compound damage to remaining wildlife
    Many remnant flora & fungi have persisted in soil until now, but can only last so long…
    Increasing recognition of ecosystem services & role of woodland within this…
    PAWS woods have most potential to significantly increase level of ecosystem services provided, through restoration
    Converting single age monocultures into structurally & biologically diverse woods increases resilience to:
    Disease
    Climate change
    Windblow
    Economic benefits:
    Locally sourced firewood & timber increasingly valued & invested in
    New suite of grants under CAP reform may include options specifically targeted at restoration
  • Photo (Brede High Woods):
    Successfully restored stand of oak along ride edge in foreground (glimpse of original stand in background)
    Most threats to remnant ancient woodland features from excessive shade or light:
    Therefore approach to remove conifers slowly from plantations:
    To allow light back through canopy & avoid further damage to soil
    Not so rapidly or to such great extent as to shock ecosystem, or allow opportunist species e.g. bramble to take over
    Approach of careful light management similar to Continuous Cover Forestry, & supported by Oxford Institute for Forestry research
    1. Initial surveys to establish key remnant features & habitats:
    Ground Flora
    Dead Wood
    Veteran & Ancient Trees
    Archaeology
    Edge features: gills, rides, glades & external edges
    2. First round of works focus on thinning around these:
    Encourages existing broadleaves, specialist species & habitats to recover / re-colonise from nearby woods where possible
    3. Once woodland more robust, begin thinning remainder of stand, improving structure & encouraging natural regen
    Over time move towards native broadleaf matrix at all tiers of woodland
    But not to entirely remove conifer component:
    May wish to retain some for timber potential
    May have value for some important wildlife
    Vital part of woodland’s story
  • What are we able to offer you?
    Free assistance & advice for landowners to restore their woods
    Incl. grant applications, management plans etc
    Each woodland treated as individual, taking owner’s objectives into account
    PAWS surveys, including Woodland Heritage surveys by vols
    Specialist training for industry professionals on restoration & related subjects
    (Also knock-on benefits to communities & individuals will include:
    Cultural & educational enrichment
    Increased recreation opportunities & health & wellbeing
    Improvements to local environment)
  • If interested in Project and would like to know more, or have any questions, please speak to me afterwards…
    (Also have Leaflets and Best Practice Guides available to take away (?))
  • West Weald Landscape Project Conference: Low weald ancient woodland restoration project

    1. 1. AncientAncient WoodlandWoodland RestorationRestoration Jim Smith-Wright, Project Officer, Low Weald Letting the light inLetting the light in
    2. 2. •10 Project Officers providing advice •1,200 landowners will be engaged •AWR information hub created •2,400 people engaged through workshops •64 volunteers active in various roles •Volunteer speakers engaging 2,880 people each year with talks on Ancient Woodland •20 training events to engage 40 local enthusiast groups to research & survey restoration sites •Development of flagship AWR demonstration sites within WT estate •New AWR guide based on research & experience gained from project Projects UK WideProjects UK Wide
    3. 3. Ancient Woodland Restoration The Low Weald Project AreaThe Low Weald Project Area
    4. 4. The Low WealdThe Low Weald Ancient Woodland Restoration GeologyGeology
    5. 5. Ancient Woodland Restoration Photo Courtesy of High WealdPhoto Courtesy of High Weald AONBAONB HeritageHeritage
    6. 6. Why are Ancient WoodsWhy are Ancient Woods so Important?so Important? Sources of life for centuriesSources of life for centuries Food for the SoulFood for the Soul Ancient Woodland Restoration
    7. 7. Conifers in Ancient WoodlandConifers in Ancient Woodland Ancient Woodland Restoration
    8. 8. Ancient Woodland Restoration Conifers in Ancient WoodlandConifers in Ancient Woodland
    9. 9. Why Restore Now?Why Restore Now? Ancient Woodland Restoration
    10. 10. Principles of Ancient WoodlandPrinciples of Ancient Woodland RestorationRestoration Ancient Woodland Restoration • Survey & assess • Secure & enhance remnant features • Move towards semi-natural composition
    11. 11. WhatWhat’’s on Offer?s on Offer? Ancient Woodland Restoration • Advice • Assessment • Training • Guidance WhatWhat’’s ons on Offer?Offer?
    12. 12. Ancient Woodland Restoration Guidance & More Information
    13. 13. Thank youThank you Jim Smith-Wright 07768 506664 JimSmith-Wright@woodlandtrust.org.uk Ancient Woodland Restoration

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