Thursday, 9 September 2010

Woodland Management

The woodland on Wenlock Edge that is looked after by the National Trust is made up of a wide variety of species, the most common is Ash and this tree accounts for most of the high canopy in the woodland. It occurs naturally here, enjoying the calcareous soils. Other naturally occuring species include Sessile Oak, Elm, Willow, Yew, Large Leaved Lime, Small Leaved Lime and the occasional Wild Service Tree. Wild Service Trees are an indicator of Ancient woodland this is because it only regenerates very slowly, through suckers as its seeds do not germinate in this part of the world. Alongside these native tree species there is an assortment of exotic conifers that have been planted to produce quick growing, valuable timber. Conifer species include, Larch, Douglas Fir, Norway Spruce and Sitka Spruce.
The trees need re-spacing at regular intervals, this gives the better quality trees more space and light so that they can continue to develop in good health. This work, when carried out sensitively in small areas creates more open woodland for a few years until the canopy closes up and the understory regenerates, this benefits both the trees that are left and certain species of wildlife that favour the open conditions. This work is carried out by the National Trust Rangers based on Wenlock Edge, sometimes with the help of contractors. Felled trees are later winched out of the wood and stacked at trackside for either our own use or for selling on.
Understory species include Hazel, Holly and Guelder Rose, the most prolific being Hazel. The Hazel has been coppiced in the past, this is the act of cutting the shrub down near the ground to produce multiple stems that can then be harvested for the use in hedgelaying, roof thatching and other rural tasks. Coppice is re-cut on about a ten year cycle, this practice has been re-introduced in the last 20 years. It keeps the Hazel vigorous, breaks up the woodland structure, provides open areas for butterflies and woodland plants as well as producing useful products. This work is carried out by skilled contractors and volunteers. Most woodland management work is carried out during the winter months to minimise disturbance to wildlife.

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