Monday, 12 October 2009


As we have got to know the wood over the summer, beautiful as it is, the issues have become clear and possible solutions have evolved.

There are two main problems, both caused by the wood's history and recent lack of management. The first is darkness and overcrowding, which suppress the ground flora. The pines are overcrowded and in need of serious thinning. Growing so close together they are not nearly as robust as 50 year- old pines should be. The forester who came on Friday thought they had probably been thinned only once, whereas a plantation of that age would normally be thinned three or four times during its lifetime. In the spaces created where the pines were blown down in the 1987 storm, the new birch wood has grown exceedingly dense and needs drastic thinning to help the struggling oak, beech and rowan seedlings.

The second problem is a lack of variation in the woodland structure, in particular a lack of understorey. The remaining pines were planted all at the same time, and are consequently all more or less the same size. The new birch wood colonised the bare ground after the 87 storm, and that too is all of an equal age and height. There are some veteran trees, but not many, and very little understorey as all the growth rushes upwards towards the light.

We have known for a while that the answer will be to create a programme of thinning and glades. Our visitors from Natural England and the High Weald project approved, and encouraged us to be bolder in our thinking. We are now considering a more radical thinning of the pines, combining this with wide sunny areas where we can encourage oak regeneration. They agreed that widening the ride was a good idea, and also creating wide paths through the wood. We had already considered small paths to link favourite features, but these would be more ambitious. They also suggested coppicing the alder wood, which is probably a project for the future.

We have already started work on the ride, taking out the overhanging birch and thinning around the oak and alder. This will take several visits over the autumn and winter, not least because there is twenty-odd years of growth to dispose of.

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