The day began with a thought provoking session on strategy and woodland management. Ray Hawes, head of forestry for the NT, led a discussion about the newly published strategy for the whole of the NT. This calls for land and landscapes that are healthy, rich in wildlife, enjoyable, culturally rich, beautiful or unspoilt and productive. To what extent will this change the NT policy for forestry? Policy needs to marry change with the need for continuity and the timescales of trees.
The 5 key questions when considering how to manage a woodland are:
- What is this woodland? – its significance
- What will happen if we do nothing? – the process which is under way
- What could it be? – a vision
- What is the least we need to do? – action e.g. to eradicate disease
- What can we do now to reduce future work? – investment e.g. in removal of ponticum while it is small.
The need for recording decisions was emphasised and is an essential requirement of the Woodland Certification Audit. An overgrown ancient woodland in Northern Ireland has an avenue of horse chestnuts; was the avenue leading to a historic landmark? After much digging around the answer was no, there had been 50 spare saplings looking for a home!
Using film to inform and communicate the cause
After coffee we were treated to BAFTA award winning performances by Rhodri Wigley and Dave Lamacraft (Plantlife) who co-starred in a 9 minute film about Dolmelynllyn and its lower plants. Rhodri explained the steps taken to manage a woodland for the benefit of lichens and bryophytes.
|Dave Lamacraft and Rhodri Wigley|
This was part of a series of films produced last year and another series is under way for 2015 which includes: Cwm Idwal, Cwm Ivy, Castlemartin Peninsula, Migneint Birds, Llynnau Cregennen, Ceredigion Coastal Grasslands, Shepherding at Hafod y Llan, Grassland Fungi and the use of DNA to identify their presence before they fruit. A film aimed at past and potential donors towards trees and woodlands is ‘Dolmelynllyn through the seasons’; this will be filmed at four different times of the year highlighting the work that goes into managing a woodland.
Glastir and woodland grants
Not much has happened in the first part of 2015 but there is expected to be an announcement at the Royal Welsh Show. The Glastir Woodland Management and Glastir Woodland Creation schemes should have ended in May 2013 but were extended to 2014. New schemes will follow from the Rural Development Plan.
Grants covering up to 80% of training costs will likely continue through a service centre. Farming Connect has historically provided, and is a likely candidate to continue to provide this service in the future. It is not yet known whether there will be limits such as a ceiling on the number of students from any one organisation. It was felt that quite a few people would be interested in refresher courses.
European Single Payment rules for Wales have been interpreted restrictively compared to the rest of the UK. Land which has 100 trees or more per hectare is not eligible; for some farmers this is up to 40% of their land. It’s the sort of ruling that could encourage the removal of trees in order to qualify for financial support!
Valuing and Managing Veteran Trees
|Ankerwycke Yew by Alan Bennett|
copyright Brunel University London Arts Collection
Ideally, no work should be done closer to a veteran tree than 5m outside the extent of the canopy, or a distance from the centre of the tree of 15 times the diameter of the trunk at breast height, whichever is the greater. This establishes a ‘separation distance’ or exclusion zone round the tree and gives it the best chance of long-term survival.
As visitor numbers increase and the pressure on car parks grows, there is potential for conflict. Scraping away the topsoil beneath a veteran tree to expand a car park is NOT a good idea!
The Ancient Tree Forum of Wales has recently been established and had its first meeting at Dinefwr.
Woodland highlights of the previous year
Erddig – James Stein
One oak, which is thought to be about 500 years old, has had the encroaching chestnut and beech trees pruned back. Another veteran which has a hollow trunk has had logs and branches piled up near the base to exclude sheltering sheep; eventually the logs will rot down and enrich the soil.
The double avenue of pleached limes has been pruned. It takes approximately 10 weeks of work each year. Each tree has about 500 shoots, which makes 65,000 pruning cuts, all with secateurs.
Ysbyty Estate – Andrew Roberts
At the start of 2014 work had begun to thin out the conifers, but then came the storm and thinning was not an issue. The wood was sold ‘standing’ at £9 a tonne (wood pulp price) but the buyer discovered that it was suitable for timber and upped the price to £12 a tonne. The 1,000 tonnes generated some welcome unbudgeted income.
Other thinning work was undertaken under the Better Woodlands for Wales scheme then milled on a portable mill hired in at £330 per day. This produced the cladding for the Hafod y Llan hydro shed.
Some large conifers were felled that were encroaching on veteran trees. Timber mills no longer want thick trunks and the maximum size they take is 60 to 65cm.
There is a scattering of hawthorns on the ffridd but no regeneration. Young hawthorns of local provenance are being planted with protective guards at the rate of 10 per year. Andrew commented that thick patches of gorse were good for regeneration.
Pembrokeshire – Chris Oliver
|Five years of fuel 'felled' in one night|
Chris is looking to replant with different types of trees, with conifers taking 15 to 20 years until harvest. He has started coppice rotation and is aiming for structural diversity in the woodland.
Lodge Park wood, to the rear of Stackpole House, was planted with laurels by the Cawdors to provide cover for game birds. The wood had become greatly overgrown but has now been thinned and opened up revealing a secret, long lost rose garden. Chris has written this up and had it published in the journal of the Ancient Trees Forum.
Tree Diseases – Steve Whitehead
|Citrus Longhorn Beetle|
There is a very informative Observatree guide to diseases with films of what to look out for. Here is a link to the pests and diseases page.
The threat is ‘a clear and present danger’ which underlines the need to build resilience into our woods, to have diversity and to use local provenance. If properties are importing species they should quarantine them before planting out and a period of 3 months was considered to be the bare minimum but longer would be better. There was talk about establishing a tree nursery or tree nurseries such as the one producing trees for Dyffryn Mymbyr.
Trees in the uplands – Jan Sherry, Natural Resources Wales
The best Juniper in Wales is on NT property and the Juniper on Snowdon is in particular danger of Phytophthora – the source of the danger is the 3 Peaks Challenge with dirty boots travelling down from the Lake District.
Our uplands are relatively bald representing less than 3% of broad-leaved trees in Wales (National Forest Inventory 2012) and there are no examples of native woodland at the limits of altitude.
Trees are an important component of the ffridd mosaic and can also be part of flood alleviation measures by helping to hold the water in the uplands. Trees also provide shelter for livestock.
|Not many trees on the Carneddau|
Trees on the ffridd regenerate when farming activity decreases e.g. at the end of war, and the hawthorns at Dyffryn Mymbyr are an example of this; they mainly date to the same decade. As sheep density reduces, regeneration increases – even Pumlumon, described by George Mombiot in ‘Feral’ as a green desert, is seeing a regeneration of heather and trees.
Jan displayed maps showing current areas of where we have upland trees / woodland in northern Snowdonia and then a map showing desired areas for more woodland. Some questions need to be asked:
• Do we want more trees in the uplands? Not everyone does.
• If yes, what sort? Scattered? Woods? Copses?
• If yes, where? Can we accommodate by moving some of the heathland uphill?
• Should we go for slow regeneration or replant? If we replant, from what resource?
There was discussion about the Welsh Government target for 100,000 hectares of newly planted woodland by 2020. How achievable a target is it?