Fineshade Forest Plan 2019-2028
Opened 4th October 2019 and closed 8th November
Proposed plan can still be downloaded here.
There was a well attended public Drop in Meeting at the ‘Old Barn’ on Wednesday 23rd October 2019 from 14:00 until 19:00. It was a useful opportunity to view the plan and discuss the plan proposals with Forestry England staff.
We are told that Forestry England will examine the feedback from the consultation, contact those who responded and, where possible, incorporate suggestions into the Forest Plan.
Update 28th January 2020. We are now told that there have been admin delays within the Forestry Commission (as opposed to Forestry England.) So it seems we are waiting for FC to place an amended version "on the public register to run concurrently with the public consultation".
What the plan sets out to do
Define the long term vision for Fineshade, Wakerley and Southwick Woods and set out how management will move towards achieving this vision over the next ten years.
Management objectives are to:
diversify the species and age structure to mitigate against the impacts of climate change, pests and disease;
grow sustainable commercial crops;
gradually revert Plantations on Ancient Woodland (PAWS) to mixed woodlands dominated by broadleaves;
facilitate public access on freehold land;
conserve the landscape and conservation value of the woodlands;
manage the natural resources to maintain soil and water quality.
Summary and comments
One Friend of Fineshade has said "What the Plan says is OK - it's what it doesn't say that' I'm worried about". Here's a list of things that this Plan does not deal with:
There are no plans, either strategic or tactical, for recreation facilities - walking and cycling trails, carparks, toilets, tourist attractions and accommodation. For many people it is these things that most affect their enjoyment of the wood.
The Plan does not mention support for local businesses dedicated to woodland management. Is there a policy for encouraging local forestry contractors? Or for new businesses to be set up specialising in, for example, coppice products, wood turning etc.
It does not, and obviously cannot, set out the detailed yearly management operations for each small section of a wood.
It does not deal with the management of key ecological features such as rides, open areas such as the Deer Lawn, streams and ponds. This Plan is all about trees.
Clear-felling and restocking
We are generally happy with the proposed strategy for clear felling as summarised in the felling map copied below. But there are concerns about the stated plans for restocking, i.e the creation of new plantations. Overall there will only be a slight reduction in non-native conifer plantations but we would prefer much more of the conifer to be replaced with native hardwoods.The Plan states that: "Secondary woodland sites currently planted with conifers will continue to be managed as conifer woodland in future rotations." We believe that the Forestry Commission made huge mistakes when, years ago, it created conifer plantations of Norway Spruce, Corsican Pines etc, in Rockingham Forest. There is a danger of repeating the mistakes of previous experiments with, for example, Serbian Spruce.
We understand the aspiration to plant for resilience, including planting some species sourced from further south. However, when the Plan talks of increased diversity, this appears to entail introducing a broader range of exotic species on the clear fell areas. Increasing tree diversity does not equate with biodiversity gain. It is clear that species such as Oriental Spruce will bring very little biodiversity gain: it offers no more benefits for our native fauna and flora than do the largely sterile conifer plantations it will replace. We would prefer to see the Plan referring to a mixture of native and non-native species. In particular we note with great concern that there is no mention anywhere in the Plan of native trees being used to restock clear-felled areas.
A remaining block of conifer (Corsican Pine). When it's felled it will be replaced with more conider (perhaps Serbian Spruce
Low impact management
We are pleased to see that there is a substantial area where no clear-fell and subsequent replanting will take place. We are pleased that on mature Ancient Woodland sites “low impact silvicultural systems (LISS) will be favoured”. The management techniques set out for these sound appealing, but we are concerned by statements such as: “The use of nursery grown trees will again allow new provenances and different species to be introduced to increase resilience to pest, disease and climate change.” The emphasis again, even on Ancient Woodland sites, appears to be on non-native trees whose contribution to the woods’ biodiversity is questionable.
We are very pleased indeed to see a small area set aside as a "Natural Reserve" (marked red on the map below.) In this area no active woodland management will be undertaken and the area (2.4ha) will be allowed to evolve naturally without any human intervention.
We understand that, in order to maintain UKWAS designation, Forestry England need to create Natural Reserves across 1% of secondary woodland and 5% of Ancient Woodland across each district. This red area is only 0.5% of the total area of Fineshade so we are urging the planners to increase the area of this plot (it's Plantation on Ancient Woodland) and we are suggesting several other potential parts of Fineshade which would be best left to evolve naturally.
An example of LISS management. An Oak plantation currently being thinned in Hollow Wood near King's Cliffe
We say that there should be no further planting of non-native conifer in Fineshade Wood. It's not good for people, it's not good for wildlife and its economic value is very questionable.
Part of the small area where a Natural Reserve is planned
Fineshade felling map