Movement restrictions introduced to protect against tree pest in Kent

 New measures have just been introduced yesterday (16 January) to protect the country against the tree pest known as the larger eight-toothed spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus), which was discovered in Kent in December 2018. 

This beetle is considered a serious pest on spruce in Europe and has recently been found in the wider environment in England as part of routine plant health surveillance activity.

Legislation is being laid in Parliament that will restrict the movement of all susceptible material, including trees and wood with bark, within 50km of the outbreak sites where Ips typographus was found. 

This legislation is a necessary precaution to prevent the spread of the pest further afield and will remain in place until further notice, but will be kept under review. 

The exact boundaries of the restricted area and details of the materials under restriction will be available on the Forestry Commission website. 

Industry are also urged to remain vigilant for signs of the pest and to report any suspicions to the Forestry Commission. 

Nicola Spence, the UK Chief Plant Health Officer, said:

‘The eight-toothed spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus) poses no threat to human health, but it can be a serious pest to the spruce tree species and the forestry industry.

That is why we are taking robust action through this new legislation and its restriction of movement for spruce trees in a 50km area around the outbreak.

I encourage anyone who suspects a sighting of the bark beetle to report these to the Forestry Commission online through Tree Alert.’

Please report any suspected cases HERE: https://treealert.forestry.gov.uk/

 

BIFoR/Small Woods PhD researcher update

A little update on what, Ben Howard, BIFoR/Small Woods PhD researcher is up to.

 Here we find him sizing up one of the woodland streams under consideration for study as part of the joint study into the use of coppice material in river restoration.

Ben is looking at the Carbon sequestration and Denitrification effects of using coppice material in planned green engineering in river restoration. We will hope for instance to gain a better understanding of the effects of using coppice material rather than simply dropping or leaving fallen trees into water courses to slow the flow and improve water quality.

The work has the potential to provide additional roles for coppice products which address current problems, including those highlighted in today’s announcements regarding the government’s clean air strategy

 

Updated Information on Ash Dieback

The future of our ash trees is very uncertain, it has been estimated that, the majority of ash trees in UK woodlands infected with the ash dieback disease (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus fungus) will decline and die in the next 10 to 15 years. This will have a monumental impact on our landscapes and woodlands and may bring with it a decline in the biodiversity of many species that are largely dependent on Ash.

For those who are involved in the management of UK woodlands, there has been mixed advice, uncertainty and lack of clarity on what to do and how to act and research is regularly being changed and updated as scientists are finding out more about the disease.

The advice of what to do when faced with Ash Dieback has now been updated in a Forestry Commission document for any of those responsible for the management of Ash but unsure of how to deal with impacts in woodlands you own, manage or are involved in.

we strongly recommend that all owners of woodland containing ash prepare or amend management plans to describe how this species will be managed, including giving due consideration to which alternative tree species might be used for restocking where required’ 

Management choices may vary slightly depending on the individual’s management objectives i.e. timber production or biodiversity, and this document suggests possible strategies for each.

So, whilst the future of our Ash species seems dire, there remains some hope. It is possible that, by retaining trees with low levels of damage i.e. minimal crown damage and no root collar lesions, some tolerant regeneration may result.

‘the percentage of potentially tolerant trees is likely to be very low but with careful management these could regenerate, and the species could continue to exist at low levels in mixed stands. Encouraging multiple opportunities for regeneration (through a larger number of smaller interventions for example) will increase genetic “churn” and may result in more chances of tolerant trees emerging.’ 

Find out more information here:  https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/741800/ON046.pdf

 

Small Woods response to National Park and AONB Landscape Review

1. Small Woodland Objectives for National Parks

The woodland perspective is one that should be prominent within the National Park review. Woodlands are an integral part of our finest landscapes. From the sessile oak woods of the Lake District to the Beech Hangers of the South Downs, it is trees and woodlands that frame our most iconic views. Woodlands are integral to the sense of place of our protected landscapes, however, their protection is disjointed and inconsistent.

For example, whilst National Park and AONB Management Plans are consistent in their recognition of the landscape importance of their woodlands, the implementation can often work against the rhetoric. Woodlands are dynamic entities and the maintenance of their many values and indeed their place in the landscape requires the conditions to be right for their sustainable management. Yet our members often report opposition from NP and AONB executives to their efforts in pursuit of sustainable management.

There is evidence that the Sandford Principles are not being adhered to with respect to access in woodlands, or that they are being too zealously or blindly applied, leading to unmanaged and under-managed woodlands, with consequently declining environmental, social and economic value. For example, on the one hand open access in woodlands that are important for biodiversity is having a negative impact on their flora and fauna. On the other hand sensible requests for ancillary structures for woodland management, such as shelters for people and equipment are being refused due to a lack of understanding of the sector’s requirements. This was most recently exemplified by the Hillyfield Planning Inquiry in Dartmoor National Park. It can therefore be argued that the absence of a balanced approach to wildlife management and the cessation of woodland management altogether is leading to a degradation of our most important woodlands and their conservation value.

It is our hope that the outcomes of the review can lead towards a more enlightened approach to the practical requirements of woodland management and that wildlife value and opportunities for sustainable livelihoods improve as a result.

2. Key issues for small woodlands in protected landscapes

In overview there are 5 key themes for Small Woodlands owners and managers that we would like to see brought into consideration for the National Parks Review.

2.1 Improve and extend woodland management

The most pressing issue for woodlands in our designated areas is the lack of management. This is also the single most pressing threat to our woodlands and has several dimensions.

Over 50% of our woodlands are un-managed or under-managed due to a combination of lack of skills, expertise, markets, motivation, as well as demographic change. Whilst all of these issues can be addressed, however, as with many complex problems, it is very difficult to overcome such many-faceted problems when so many things need to be overcome at once. We would therefore advocate that change needs to begin with hearts and minds of both the general public and those responsible for the designation and regulation of our finest landscapes.

One of the key drivers is people, and people with the skills and desire to manage woodlands have been a dwindling resource across much of England in the 20th and now 21st centuries. That trend is however beginning to change and we are seeing a growing number of people coming to organisations like the Small Woods Association asking for ways they can become involved in woodland craft and management. This is now where a dichotomy starts to arise. As explained below in the “Working woodlands..” section.

Another key dimension of enabling our most treasured landscapes to move forward into the next decade with confidence is how to maintain and regenerate woodland cover in the face of unsustainable rises in squirrel and deer populations. Both deer and squirrels pose existential threats to our woodlands and particularly to the ability of mixed age stands to regenerate. In many woodlands the next generation of woodland succession is simply not coming through due to deer browsing damage and those that do survive are then so damaged by squirrels when they reach 15-20 years old that they do not survive, or only do so in a damaged and attenuated form.

Alignment to the 25 year Environment Plan requires woodlands to have a future. Our current approach to woodland management is disjointed and bound to failure, if it does not become more serious about these issues.

2.2 Working woodlands in a working landscape

England’s National Parks are the way they are, due to the fact they are working landscapes. In the farming sector, due to 4 decades of support through the Common Agricultural Policy, agricultural skills have been maintained in the countryside. The same cannot be said for woodland management and skills. In this sense the CAP has been a lopsided policy, focused largely on agriculture, whilst other forms of land management have received significantly less comprehensive support. Long term demographic and societal meta-trends have also contributed.

However, these trends are now showing signs of reversal and it will be to society’s benefit and to that of our most treasured landscapes if National Parks and AONB are now proactive in developing policies and facilitating developments that enable people who will provide for the manifold management needs that our woodlands need, to live and work in the countryside. Such changes could also facilitate the establishment of more sustainable livelihoods, with people living and working in the landscapes for which they are caring. As

land use requirements change, it would be an enlightened, if radical approach, if a proportion of tenanted agricultural units were repurposed for a future which has far more woodland

2.3 Landscapes working for communities

The past few decades have seen fewer and fewer people who live in National Park and AONB communities making their living from the land. For some such communities living in these environments, the beauty that surrounds them can seem like a straitjacket that provides nothing concrete to the lives of its communities; in the words of the former Rural Development Commission “You can’t eat the view”. It is our contention however that our finest landscapes can indeed hold the key to the health, wellbeing and sustainable livelihoods of their local communities. Specifically, in the woodland sector, there is a growing appreciation that there is a “Long Tail”1 to Forestry, in that the diversity of livelihoods based on small woodlands is wide and is only growing.

2.4 Woodlands for Wellbeing

The 8-point plan for England’s National Parks highlights the role played by our protected areas in health, wellbeing and social welfare. Our woodlands have a largely unrealised potential to foster health and wellbeing and create a “win-win set of outcomes” of healthy woods and healthy people. For example, by encouraging communities to get involved in the management of woodlands in and around communities, it promotes positive use, promotes environmental awareness and reduces negative effects, such as the tendency of unmanaged spaces to become “no go” areas. This goes well beyond the restorative powers of a stroll with the dog and there is a growing body of evidence that such activities in a woodland setting have greater positive health outcomes when appropriately designed and facilitated. The skills and capacities of those supporting these activities are also developing and new disciplines are being established in “Social Forestry”, “Mindfulness” and “Forest Bathing”.

2.5 Extending woodland cover

There is a widespread consensus behind the need for an extension in woodland cover, as England is one of the least wooded countries in Europe and an increase in woodland cover will help the country to address its climate change needs. There are one or two reasons to suggest that protected areas should be at the forefront of this change, as they include some of the most important woodlands and they could in fact become laboratories for change, embracing agro-forestry and driving forward change in the uplands.

3. Issues raised by the consultation themes which are relevant to Small Woodlands, their owners and managers

3.1 Governance

The governance of our National Parks and AONBs needs to ensure that small woodland owners are represented on their Boards. Woodland ownership is changing quickly and communication between National Parks and their local woodland owners is markedly less

effective than it is with farmers, fishers and those representing other land use types. With over 400,000 small woodlands across the UK, small woodlands are not the minority they may be imagined to be.

3.2 Financing

Those conducting the consultation and setting the framework for National Parks should recognise that the environment for funding within which the non-government sector is operating is very competitive and many small and medium sized charities are struggling for funding. No outcome from this consultation should lead National Parks and AONBs, as central government designations, to provide more competition for diminishing Non-government sector resources, as this would further weaken the non-government sector on which all sectors of society depend.

3.3 Areas for consideration for new designations

Whilst this is not at the heart of the Small Woods mission, we note that the map of designations serves the Midlands particularly poorly. We would recommend the consideration of areas in those parts of the country where designation would celebrate fine landscapes that are currently unrecognised, such as the Charnwood Forest, which was of course on the original short list for National Park consideration in the 1940s. Other Midlands areas for consideration might include Sherwood Forest or the National Forest.

4. The Small Woods Association

Small Woods Association is the foremost independent membership organisation that exists to support woodland owners across the UK. Established in 1988 in response to the need to support woodland owners in addressing the many challenges that face Small Woodlands. Its objectives are:

* To increase the sustainable management of small woodlands

* To promote the wider utilisation of local timber and wood products

The association has 2350 members, who between them own approximately 28,000ha. of woodland, a similar woodland area to that owned by the Woodland Trust.

Small Woods Association are keen to use our practical experience in the management of small woodlands in the support of the consultation. The Association has a long track record of delivering woodland management support projects, for example, the successful and well-regarded Heartwoods programme, as well as working with Forest Research on mobilisation of small woodland resources in the SIMWOOD project and a range of publications on the management and marketing of woodlands and wood products.

Annex – Objectives of the Review

* the existing statutory purposes for National Parks and AONBs and how effectively they are being met

* the alignment of these purposes with the goals set out in the 25-Year Plan for the Environment

* the case for extension or creation of new designated areas

* how to improve individual and collective governance of National Parks and AONBs, and how that governance interacts with other national assets

* the financing of National Parks and AONBs

* how to enhance the environment and biodiversity in existing designations

* how to build on the existing eight-point plan for National Parks and to connect more people with the natural environment from all sections of society and improve health and wellbeing

* how well National Parks and AONBs support communities.

 

Tree Planting in the UK Needs to Increase

A recent report from the CCC (Committee on Climate Change), has urged the importance of increasing tree planting in the UK, advising that the governments increase tree planting from 9,000 hectares per year to 20,000ha by 2020, then triple it to 27,000ha by 2030.

This increase in planting, it has been suggested, should also include a shift in land use. The report says that up to 17% of cropland and 30% of grassland could be converted in order to meet the demands of a growing population and to mitigate the effects of the changing climate. This change in land use will also need to include improved forest management, restoration of peatlands, and shifts to low-carbon farming practices, which improve soil and water quality.

Tree cover and planting rates in the UK are frustratingly low. Only 13% of the UK’s total land area is covered in trees, compared to the EU average of 38%, with planting falling far below targets every year. Although the government says that it plans to increase planting rates, these plans have not been funded.

Woodlands, by sequestering carbon, play a vital role in reducing our carbon emissions and improving resilience. Climate scientists have also recently declared in an IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) report, released at the beginning of October, that we have 12 years or less left to act on climate change before we reach a climate emergency. If we are to meet our carbon emission reduction targets, then it is essential that the UK follows and even exceeds the ambitious tree planting rates advised by the CCC, by planting up at least 1.2 million hectares by 2050.

Read more about the report here; https://www.theccc.org.uk/2018/11/15/reforms-must-prepare-the-uk-countryside-for-climate-change-and-ensure-that-our-use-of-land-supports-reduced-emissions/

 

Time for a career change? Volunteer in the woods

‘Malaysian by birth. Chinese by race. Welsh by location. Nature lover by discovery. Running by choice. What else is there?’

This is Ai-Lin’s Twitter profile. Ai-Li is an inspiring volunteer leading mindfulness and woodland walking sessions in Merthyr Tydfil with Actif Woods Wales, a woodland health and wellbeing programme run by Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales). Volunteers like her make a significant contribution to this programme, helping to run groups, bringing with them enthusiasm, time and skills. But, why volunteer? There are many different reasons why people from all walks of life decide to volunteer. Here is Ai-Lin’s story.

Time for change

Ai-Lin has lived and worked in Wales for over 16 years. She moved from a stressful career in PR and events in Malaysia to work in the tourism sector in the UK. Then eight years ago she laced up her trainers and did a trail race on Brynna Hill in south Wales and discovered a new vocation. Ai-Lin decided she wanted to ‘inspire and encourage others to get outdoors, to explore, and to feel that sense of well-being and liberation that I have often experienced when I am out in the woods, or on the trails’. And she has certainly done that.

Sharing skills

Volunteers like Ai-Lin have a huge amount to offer. In May 2018 Ai-Lin retrained, completing a Higher National Diploma in Environmental Conservation Management. She now shares her passion for the outdoors, and knowledge of the importance of woodlands, trees, plants and nature with others. She also practices mindfulness meditation, and during woodland sessions is helping people to understand what it means and how it can benefit them. Volunteers have the opportunity to learn new skills to help support the running of sessions, such as hand tool use, woodland skills and social forestry.

A new career

She has gone on to work for RSPB, volunteer for our Actif Woods Wales programme, lead mindfulness and nature walks for local organisations, and become a Park Warden at Taff Bargoed Park. Ai-Lin says, ‘I would not have thought of venturing to do this if not for Actif Woods Wales. Meeting, volunteering and working with you all has opened my eyes to a whole new world. Thanks so much for setting me on a path!’. What an amazing volunteering journey, taking her into a new career path!

Finding community and confidence

Giving is receiving. Volunteering has given Ai-Lin huge rewards. She says, ‘volunteering is a way of adding a different dimension to my life so that it is not just all about work. It is also an opportunity to meet like-minded people who may enjoy being out in nature as I do, an opportunity to use some of my skills or knowledge to help and inspire others, and to learn new things for myself’. She is now very involved in her local community, has a wider social network and is aware of so many more inspiring community projects than before. ‘Volunteering has also helped me build my own confidence in delivering sessions and speaking to groups about nature. Before this, it had never occurred to me that I could do this!’.

Putting life in perspective

Our Actif Woods Wales programme is helping to make a crucial difference in people’s health and wellbeing according to woodland research by Bangor University. A three-year study by Heli Gittins,

PhD Researcher in the School of Natural Sciences, is beginning to reveal connections with woodland activities, confidence and career building. The fact that programme participants are aged over 25, long-term unemployed or economically inactive, and either experiencing a work limiting health condition, are a carer or aged over 54 years, makes these early results even more profound.

Ai-Lin says, ‘It is inspiring to hear stories of how people have over-come mental health issues or how despite personal struggles, people have continued to strife and get better. It has helped me put my own life into perspective. A natural setting like a woodland is a salve for the mind and the soul. It helps people to ‘re-set’ their busy lives. An escape and respite from the hustle and bustle and just feel at peace’.

Finding volunteering opportunities

Coed Lleol welcomes volunteers from all walks of life to volunteer with the Actif Woods Wales programme. Find out more on the Coed Lleol (Small Woods Wales) website, and contact local staff directly to discover volunteering opportunities in your area: www.coedlleol.org.uk

 

Small Woods Contribution to Welsh Brexit Debate

Small Woods has contributed to the debate in Wales about how land management support schemes should change following our departure from the EU.

Wales is looking to chart a distinctive course for land based payments after Brexit and this consultation sets out some ideas about how.  The ineffectiveness of CAP schemes has been well rehearsed; however, the raw profitability figures are striking.  Whilst Total Income From Farming (TIFF) in Wales is €274m, the combined value of the current payment schemes is €289m.  The current farming schemes equate to payments in excess of Welsh agriculture’s total profitability.  In summary, the Welsh Government have concluded that “The current Basic Payment Scheme has not been a targeted intervention and is in essence a payment for holding land. It is too blunt a lever to improve economic performance, is too poorly targeted to keep farmers on the land and does not contribute sufficiently to our environmental resilience”.

So there is a clear basis for fundamental change.

In the woodland and forestry sector, we have a further issue and that is that the CAP has taken all land management resources, leaving little for forestry support.  The various consultations on the land management schemes in the UK have made it clear that a greater role can be and should be expected for our woodlands.

The Welsh Government proposes phasing out the current Basic Payment Scheme and replacing it with one that is based on two principles “Economic Resilience” and “Public Goods”.

Small Woods has welcomed the consultation and the direction of travel set out by the consultation.  However, we have asked for clarification that the overwhelming focus on farmers in the document does not lead them away from providing support to all land managers on a level playing field.  One of the issues with the previous support regime was that it led farmers to record woodlands as grazing land in order to maximise support; which also reduced natural regeneration, as it led to grazing in woods.

Our response emphasised the importance of hands on support at the local level to help deliver the change that will be required.  As well as making the best use of the local and national support networks that already exist, we suggested using organisations such as The Small Woods Association/Coed Lleol.  We have over 300 woodland owner members and represent over 3000 hectares of woodland across Wales.  We provide Information, Advice and Guidance to woodland owners and could play a very positive role in any advice and facilitation system.  We also work closely with other woodland organisations in Wales and meet regularly with at the Small Woodlands in Wales Working Group, whose members also include Coed Cymru, Llais y Goedwig and the Woodland Trust.

We particularly support the Public Goods argument for public support of land management.  We also support the idea that this should be structured and recommended that the public goods scheme should have a relatively easy access tier to encourage wide participation by land managers; however, the main “rewards” should be reserved to those who are providing higher levels of benefit.   We also encouraged consideration of Coppice restoration, alongside other forms of woodland restoration, such as PAWS.  Although other sorts of woodland restoration have been supported, we would welcome a specific reference to coppice restoration as desirable.  Re-establishing historic coppice management will help increase endangered and declining flora and fauna, such as woodland butterflies and the vascular plants on which they depend.

Our response covered a number of other issues, such as the role of collaboration, the need for long term contracts, the need to ensure that woodland management is given as much encouragement as is planting; and supported the idea that those providing multiple benefits, such as woodlands that are improved through management and whose products are then used in green infrastructure should be given particular support.   Our full response is accessible here.

 

A Visit to Lady Park Wood

“What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.”

Inversnaid, Gerald Manley Hopkins

Hopkins would have been in his element at the recent members visit to Lady Park Wood, where “wildness and wet” were both in plentiful supply.  As well as its status as a nationally important monitoring and experimentation site, Lady Park Woods also provides wild(er)ness.  It was a characteristic also recognised by Wordsworth on his visit to the lower Wye Valley 2 centuries ago.  It is to the credit of many that this sense of the wild has been maintained.

Moving onto woodland management.

When George came to the 2017 AGM, he explained that the effect of 70 years’ non-intervention now meant that the site was now darker, less accessible and less welcoming and less biodiverse.  On our visit, we saw that at first hand, and George used another resonant phrase, describing Lady Park now as the classic “hollow wood”, where the life is concentrated in the canopy and under the ground, but little in between.  Those familiar with such sites will know they have a beauty of their own, similar to the beech hangers of the Chilterns and Cotswolds, woodlands that are thought to have inspired the medieval cathedrals, such as Gloucester.

One of the striking aspects of the visit was the more or less complete absence of bird life.  When compared to managed woods we have visited this month that have been teeming with our feathered friends, it brings to life the statement George Peterken made at the end of our visit……..whilst Lady Park Wood is incredibly important as a place from which to learn about woodland development processes, “it’s not necessarily how to manage a nature reserve”.  It is not however correct to view the Biodiversity of Lady Park Wood as being in a state of decline, as the fungi are doing very well and Lady Park is becoming an increasingly important site for its mycology, as this aspect is better understood.  Lady Park Wood is simply moving on, as all woodlands do, whether managed or not.

One of the things that we were able to see first hand was “pit and mound” topography.  Characteristic of undisturbed older growth forest, the pit is formed when a tree falls and the mound is then formed of the upturned root plate.  We were able to observe relatively widespread “pit and mound” formation, we were then also able to have our agility tested in climbing under and over the fallen trees.  Given that it is non-intervention, that means trees are not cleared from paths and tracks. We also saw that fallen trees in a steeply sloping site tend to have a domino affect, resulting in relatively long narrow canopy gaps, which perhaps close quite quickly, given their narrowness.

All woodland management is about making informed choices as this where sites such as Lady Park come in. Its significance goes some way beyond the site itself.  It is a reference site, where the decisions made and the consequent dynamics within the Wood are now so well recorded that we are able to understand this woodland at a really intimate level.  Although some aspects, such as the fungi, are clearly important in their own right, its greatest value lies in the fact that it is so well understood and the role that knowledge can play in informing the decision making processes of others.  It would be very easy to write at much greater length, however, George Peterken and Ed Mountford have already done that.  Their book should be on the reading lists of all those wishing to inform themselves about their woodland management.

 

Small Woods 30th Birthday Celebration

Its the Small Woods Association 30th birthday this year and we are celebrating this after our annual AGM and Skills Share at the Greenwood Centre 5pm to 9pm. We are partnering up with the Greenwood Cafe, food and wine will be available for purchase including a streetfood festival and a venison BBQ! We invite you to join us, and take the opportunity to come along to meet some of our staff and a look around the Greenwood Centre.

 

Woodland Photography Competition

Show us the very best of your woodland and photography skills.

After the success of our previous photography competition, we will be running it again this year… with a twist! This years competition will be looking at the incredible hawthorn, challenging you to make what you will of a tree of incredible contradictions, a tree that is both valued and under-rated.

The competition is open to all members and the entries will be displayed at the Skillshare event on September 15th. Those attending will be able to vote for the best image.

The first place prize will be a carved bowl made from the beautiful hawthorn!

Entries (a maximum of two per entrant) should be sent to communications@smallwoods.org.uk by Monday 27th August 2018, and should be a minimum of 2MB in size. A selection of the best images will also appear in Smallwoods magazine.