Planned Woodland Operations for 2018-19
Belhus Woods comprise a number of woodland blocks: Running Water Wood, Brick Kiln Wood, Warwick Wood and White Post Wood, where there are to be ride widening and coppicing activities in the coming year.
Rides are tracks used for walking, riding or cycling. When wide and light enough, they are also a really good habitat. Open space is highly valued in woodland, and the edges create a variety of microsites to be colonised by butterflies and nesting birds. Some tracks are to be opened up in Belhus Woods, letting in light and energy, with edges will be maintained on a cutting system which encourages shrubbiness and wild flowers.
Prior to starting work, the area is surveyed for potential bat roots and other protected species’ habitat. This includes birds in the nesting season. If any are found, that section of the work is protected by a buffer zone.
Warwick Wood and White Post Wood are designated Ancient Semi Natural Woodland (ASNW), which have developed under the traditional coppice with standards system. Coppicing is a historic technique to produce firewood and timber, which involves cutting “stools” or the previous growth, to ground level, so that they can re-shoot quickly. Areas within a woodland block are coppiced on a fairly short cycle, so that there should be an ongoing patchwork of different ages and heights of coppice and seedling regeneration, providing constant habitat for biodiversity. Natural British flora and fauna have co-evolved with this system over thousands of years.
Particularly at Belhus Woods, the emphasis on coppicing is to create dormouse habitat. The larger standard trees that are part of some coppice systems are usually grown for timber on their own, much longer cycle. A proportion of standards are retained in a coppice compartment providing a variation in heights, ages and habitats. Seed trees are also retained for seeding into the newly open area, where plenty of light allows for germination. Female ash are left as seed trees where they are visibly unaffected by the new ash dieback disease, as well as other species which are less common in the compartment, to maintain diversity. This makes a healthy environment for regeneration and resilience to climate change. There will be supplementary planting after the coppicing, to establish a new generation of standard oak, as well as to provide increased species diversity.
The tops of the trees are termed “brash”, which can appear quite considerable after woodland work. This disappears in a few years, after doing a job of protecting regenerating stools and seedlings or where it has been laid down as a mat to protect the woodland floor against compaction by machinery.
Prior to starting work, the area is surveyed for potential bat roots and other protected species’ habitat. This includes birds in the nesting season. If any are found, that section of the work is protected by a buffer zone and resumed at a later date.