Woodlands are an important and highly valued landscape and design feature. The majority of woodlands we enjoy today are formed through well managed woodland schemes, without this many species of woodland flora and fauna would not flourish in the way they do today.
Woodland management is no easy task, requiring dedication and a long term commitment. Before taking on any woodland management, a management plan is fundamental. The management plan sets out strategic objectives for the woodland. Ideally, a plan spans the seasons with an intelligent and cohesive set of actions to create a vibrant and beautiful experience for the owner and an asset to the environment.
Management plans also provide legal evidence such as felling licenses or management of protected habitats and species. Documenting ongoing activities supports applications for certification which may be required by some Forestry Commissions. It provides a valuable record for any future owner, whether the woods are passed down family generations or sold on to a new owner.
Silviculture is one of many aspects contributing to a woodland management scheme. This is the care and cultivation of woodlands, controlling growth, composition and structure of a woodland. This helps conserve wildlife and maintains a perfect water cycle in nature. In order to successfully manage woodlands, tree surgery is required not only to maintain design and aesthetic structure but also to keep the ecology thriving. Extensive felling should be avoided but, in some circumstances, removing dead or damaged branches from trees (dead wooding) will reduce potential insect infestation or spread of tree disease, and increase safety. Tree pests and diseases occur from a variety of biological, chemical and physical factors affecting growth rates and tree forms, in the worst-case scenario death of the whole tree. Replacing diseased trees with new ones needs to be done sympathetically and with the aesthetic and ecological impact in mind.
Opening the forest canopy allows sunlight to shine through the many layers of woodland, enhancing biodiversity and allowing all shapes and sizes of trees, wildflowers and ferns to flourish. Sometimes it can be a good idea to remove the lower branches on some trees, again helping the spread of light and also helping maintain the symmetry and keeping the design looking aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
Beams and shafts of light coming through a forest canopy form magnificent shadows and highlights the lush green surroundings. As sunlight casts in, well-designed winding paths in a woodland tend to lead the eye as they curve and meander through the forest disappearing into the horizon, tempting you to explore further. Planting shade-loving plants like snowdrops, bluebells and many other wildflowers and perennials around the natural path and tree bases form a stunning lush green woodland.
Woodland wildlife relies on active management for habitats for a wide range of insects and small mammals such as beetles, woodlice and dormice. Trees provide nesting sites for birds like nightingales and cliff chaffs, whilst bats have a strong preference for roosting in trees and foraging in woodland. A good management plan could involve utilizing deadwood in the form of fallen trees, woodpiles or tree stumps to create natural habitats. It’s worth noting that a number of wildlife species are protected by law, so before undertaking any management work a professional woodland and garden maintenance team would check all the relevant regulations to ensure work undertaken is compliant.