Jan 23 Never do anything without taking advice! By Mike

Should we fence our woodland?

Yes – a high mesh fence will keep out deer who nibble sprouting coppice, and also dogs, who disturb ground nesting birds.

No– according to the SWA, it will hinder forestry and according to the wildlife people it will prevent the natural movement of dormice and other protected species.

Should we clear the brambles?

Yes – brambles shade and choke wildflowers that would otherwise grow there

No – brambles and other undergrowth are vital to certain species of birds, and some rare butterflies

Is it okay to cut down a few trees to make a clearing in the middle of our wood?

Yes – you should let more light in to encourage the wild flowers.
No– any tree might be precious and you should certainly consult an expert before cutting anything down.

Can we have a bonfire?

No– all burning produces carbon dioxide which is a greenhouse gas and contributes to global warming. Also, a fire may kill the seeds and roots of rare plants.

Yes – burning gets rid of a lot of dead branches which otherwise will prevent you from walking round easily in your wood. And a bonfire is a lot of fun.

But is it all right to enjoy our wood?

Yes – of course. The Forestry Commission invests a lot of public money in creating leisure facilities in its woods for the enjoyment of the general public. So what’s wring with investing your own effort in making your own wood suitable for private enjoyment?

No – don’t mention enjoyment or leisure in the hearing of any council or conservation body. Woodlands are serious business, they’re not for fun.

Should we get rid of our forty-year-old conifers and replace them with deciduous trees?

Yes – The Forestry Commission will look kindly on this and provide a conditional felling licence. In return, you don’t need to buy, plant, stake, tree-guard and weed the trees. “Natural regeneration” is perfectly acceptable.

No – When the locals see what you are doing (having obtained permission) they will rush off to their council and demand that a Tree Preseravion Order is put on the whole area, to preserve their view. Also, such a plan will only restore your land to “woodland” as we commonly understand it in twenty or thirty years. Do you really want to wait that long?

Should we trap or poison our squirrels to protect our trees?

Yes – the grey squirrels chew the bark of deciduous saplings, weakening the tree and spoiling its timber value

No – long term studies show that this only works in very isolated woods. Where there are adjoining woods, or woodland corridors, more will simply move in from the neighbouring territory.

So woodland corridors are a bad thing?

No – they enable all sorts of insects and small mammals to spread their territory and to interbreed, to the advantage of the species as a whole.

Can we make use of the voluntary labour of our friends and family when they happen to turn up to widen our tracks, thin trees, clear undergrowth and generally improve the wood?

Yes – looking after woodland is no longer a commercially viable proposition, so you must make the best use you can of whatever help is available, and judge your own priorities. .

No – You should never do anything without first consulting the Forestry Commission, the Nature Conservancy, the local planning department, Natural England, and the Health and Safety Executive. Make your friends book their work sessions at least three months in advance to allow for administrative delays, and take a couple of days off work to show officials round the woodland and discuss your plans.

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