Weald Country Park, just north-west of Brentwood, is an attractive mix of semi-formal parkland with large areas of woodland and the remnants of the 'tree pasture' of a deer park. This is scattered with massive oak and hornbeam pollards, some of which are probably more than 500 years old.
Planned woodland operations 2019
Much of the coniferous element of trees in Weald Country Park woodland was planted in the years and decades after the second world war. In many compartments, this appears not to have had any thinning, resulting in dark conditions and very little usable habitat. Amongst the conifer there are some native broadleaves, the most threatened of which are some magnificent beech.
The aim of this years’ work is to encourage broadleaved trees by giving them more canopy space with a “halo” thinning, while also thinning the matrix of conifer. The effect will be to reduce the predominance of conifer in favour of broadleaves over time, increase ventilation for a healthier woodland and to let light onto the woodland floor to create warmer, safer and usable habitat for biodiversity.
The machinery for this operation involves a forestry “harvester”. Although it is large, it actually has very little impact on the woodland floor, using a brash mat for driving over, and having the ability to fell with as little damage to surrounding trees as possible. It is also economic and quick, minimising the time and disturbance of the whole operation. The visual impact is usually of most concern immediately after the work, but the brash sinks down quite quickly and over time flowers and shrubbiness emerge and the lighter structure develops.
To many people, rides are tracks used for walking, riding or driving on for the maintenance of the woodland. When wide and light enough, they are also really good habitat. Open space is highly valued in woodland and ride edges create a variety of microsites to be colonised by butterflies and nesting birds. Some rides are to be opened up in Weald woodlands, letting in light and energy. Ride edges will be maintained on a cutting system which encourages a shrubby edge and wild flowers. The extent of the ride widening and thinning work can be seen on the attached map.
Prior to starting work, the area is surveyed for potential bat roots and other protected species’ habitat. Timber will be sold as firewood and sawlog products. Income derived from timber sales helps pay for the costs of the work, and for other work across the council’s other woodland estates.