Countryside Partnerships Small Grants Scheme 08/09
Project summary report: Old Park Wood
Old Park Wood is a large wood with multiple ownership and no continuity of management. It is a Local Wildlife Site, particularly noted for its fungal, bryophyte and ancient woodland flora assemblages. Sweet chestnut coppice and more recent conifer plantation have replaced much of the original ancient woodland, which remains in some plots. Pockets of an important relict heathland flora are supported in some areas. The wood is now lotted and split into a number of different private ownerships.
This project builds on earlier work to enhance the habitats, local landscape and biodiversity of the site through enhancing owners’ woodland management skills and abilities; to promote understanding and enjoyment of the woodland ecosystem and its management by woodland owners and their families, the local community and users of the public rights of way through management demonstration days, volunteer task days, surveys and guided walks, using expertise from the local Countryside Partnership - the Kent High Weald Project.
Aim 1. To enhance and restore habitats within Old Park Wood by fostering the skills and knowledge of woodlot owners, encouraging greater collaboration between them over management and by strengthening and widening links to other agencies with relevant expertise.
Aim 2. To enhance the awareness of woodland wildlife and archaeological features among woodland owners and users of the public rights of way (particularly members of the local community)
Aim 3. To enhance access to Old Park Wood by improving public footpaths, for members of the local and wider community and woodlot owners.
Concerns have been raised in the past over the practice of splitting up woodlands into several small ownerships, such as has occurred at Old Park Wood. This is partly due to the different aims and aspirations people have when they buy an area of woodland, which may not always fit in with maintaining the biodiversity and/or cultural values of a wood. A site with a number of owners, each with management of a small area, creates particular challenges, for example with regard to timber movements and access, and the management of habitats that may cross owner boundaries (e.g. rides and glades).
A key part of this project was aimed at encouraging owners to come together to form a strong woodland community and to work together for the overall benefit of the woodland, woodland and local community. An important element was the experience gained by KWT and KHWP and the Forestry Commission in working with a large group of individual owners to take forward the project.
The project has been very successful in building a greater sense of partnership. It has helped in bringing together and strengthening the woodland community, by providing opportunities for training, management and social events. It has increased the awareness and knowledge of woodlot owners and the local community, with regard to the wider woodland environment and about features specific to Old Park Wood (notably the archaeology, and historic cultural value of the site).
This project has been key in moving forward a collaborative approach to the long-term management of Old Park Wood, for the biodiversity of the site itself, the awareness of the local community and in encouraging local woodland industries. Expert advice has been used to help commence management works, notably to re-establish coppicing, and to provide more detailed project recommendations for individual woodlots. In particular, those owners who are thought to own areas of remnant wooded heath, have been keen to receive further advice on restoring this especially uncommon and valuable habitat.
The 2008/9 project, and the preceding grant works, have helped to build a strong base from which the community of this lotted wood are better able to take forward together, the management of a valuable ancient woodland site.
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