Old Park Wood Management Plan
KWT Land management Service have been asked to write a management plan on behalf of some of the owners of Old Park Wood, Iden Green - a Local Wildlife Site (TW05). This is supported by KCC Countryside Partnerships Small Grants Scheme 07/08.
Old Park Wood is divided into multiple ownership, and a number of owners have expressed an interest in receiving detailed advice and a management plan to direct the future of the wood.
KWT have written this management plan from information collected through on-site surveys of the wood, desk-top surveys and researching information held on the wood within the LWS (Local Wildlife Site) system, discussion with the owners and consultation with the Forestry Commission.
The plan in draft form is to be submitted to the owners for further comment, with the objective that they take ownership of the plan.
Introduction to the site
Old Park Wood is a large (162 ha), privately-owned woodland to the east of Goudhurst (TQ749386) (see Figure 1).
It is considered to be formerly ancient mixed broadleaf woodland and heathland on soils derived from Tunbridge Wells Sands, which are highly acidic. Much of the original woodland has been converted to conifer plantation and sweet chestnut coppice.
It is designated as a Local Wildlife Site for its local interest as a diverse ancient woodland site, supporting a rich assemblage of vascular plants, fungi and bryophytes (see Appendix 1).
In places, particularly around streams, there are areas of the original broadleaf woodland on clay soils and it is here that the most interesting floral community is considered to occur. Species include large bittercress Cardamine amara and marsh violet Viola palustris which are both County Scarce.
Much of the interest is centred along the wide rides, where a rich flora occurs, including ling Calluna vulgaris and cross-leaved heath Erica tetralix among other species. However, in places these rides are neglected with a subsequent loss of diversity at these points.
Historical features such as woodbanks provide habitat for bryophytes, of which over 70 have been recorded. The site also supports a rich fungus flora, including several notable species.
A total of 45 ancient woodland indicator species have been recorded from the site. Ancient woodland indicators (AWI) are those species (of vascular plant) which take a long time to colonise more recently established woodland. The higher the number of AWI species, the higher the probability that the wood is of ancient origin, and the more biodiverse it is likely to be.
Geology and Soils
The site is situated over sandstone rocks of the Tunbridge Wells Sands. There is no drift geology over the site. See Map 1.
The soils across the site are mainly slightly acid loamy and clayey soils with impeded drainage. See Map 2.
Site ownership and access
Old Park Wood has recently been split into a number of privately-owned plots of between 3-15 acres. Several of these owners have come together with the aim of working together to cohesive management aims for the good of the wider woodland, and it is the combined area of these individually-owned compartments that is covered by this management plan. This equals around 108.5 ha, or roughly 70% of the whole woodland. The location of these plots is indicated on Map 3.
Map 3 also indicates the many paths and rides, which form a network around the wood and link compartments. These paths are a mix of public rights of way, main access rides through the wood (some of which are historic – see Map 4), historic paths and new paths created by owners for access around their plots. These are potentially very valuable areas for maintaining and enhancing the biodiversity interest of the overall woodland.
Map 1 geology
Map 2 soils
Map 3 ownership
History of Old Park Wood
Old Park Wood is regarded as an ancient woodland site – i.e. land that can be identified as having been wooded since at least 1600AD (when the first reliable maps were drawn). It was identified as such in the English Nature Ancient Woodland Inventory 2002 and 45 ancient woodland indicator species have been recorded from the site.
Some ancient woodlands may form a link all the way back to the end of the last Ice Age in Britain and the ‘wildwood’ community that established then. Old Park Wood is situated in the High Weald, a characteristically wooded landscape that has retained a very high proportion of ancient woodland. It is not yet known exactly when Old Park Wood dates from, but at least part of it was almost certainly present in the 15th century (see below).
heritage, providing links to the historic use and access in the wood.
Old Park Wood seems to have had split ownership in the past. At the time of the Tithe maps in the 1840s, the northern part, including some open fields within the woodland area, seems to have belonged to James Mann Cornwallis, 5th Earl Cornwallis, who lived at Linton Place, Maidstone.
The Tithe maps give Thomas Hallow Roberts, esq. as the owner of lands and premises at Glassenbury, including the southern half of ‘Park Wood’.
The Roberts of Glassenbury & Old Park Wood
The Roberts family moved to the Goudhurst area from Scotland in the 1100s.
Walter Roberts esq. (a Sherriff of Kent in 1488) built a moated manor house enclosed by a deer park at Glassenbury in about 1473. The house was built on the site of an earlier 12th century building, from which it also took materials. The UK Database of Historic Parks & Gardens remarks that the mansion was in "a beautifully secluded setting in a Wealden valley, with woodland and parkland trees, but no real formal garden."
A Wood book 1856-1875 indicates the kinds of timber and materials being harvested from Old Park Wood.
While varying amounts of each wood type was taken, the majority seemed usually to be of 10 or 11ft poles, spray and brush.
The poles were likely to have been used for hop poles, as Goudhurst was a centre of hop growing in Kent.
The fact that heath was taken in 1856 is interesting as indicates the acidic nature of the soils, and the associated flora that might still be expected. It also suggests how open the site was, at least in part, as there must have been enough heather to make it worthwhile to harvest.
Map 4 historical
Habitats of Old Park Wood
Much of the original woodland has been converted to conifer plantation and sweet chestnut coppice. However, in places, particularly around streams where the soils become more clayey, there are areas of the original mixed native broadleaf woodland and here the flora is considered to be richer. Map 5 indicates the habitats present in each plot and table 1 provides a summary.
The six main habitat types present in the areas covered by this management plan are: sweet chestnut coppice, conifer plantation, secondary birch woodland, native mixed broadleaf woodland, wet woodland and relict heathland.
Table 1. Summary of habitats occurring plots within Old Park Wood:
Sweet chestnut coppice with occasional native oak standards
At some point in the past, much of the original mixed native broadleaf cover of Old Park Wood has been replaced by sweet chestnut. Most of the ownerships included in this management plan have some proportion of sweet chestnut coppice; in many compartments it is the main canopy species.
Sweet chestnut is an introduced species to the UK, thought to have been first brought over by the Romans. Historically, at Old Park Wood, it would have been managed on a coppice rotation to provide a range of products, but particularly important in this part of Kent was the production of hop poles for the surrounding hop-growing industry.
Conifer plantation (Scot’s pine, Corsican pine, larch) or PAWS (‘Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site’)
More recently, some parts of Old Park Wood have been replanted with various conifer species. In particular, ‘Corsican’ wood has complete Corsican pine cover. Conifers such as Scot’s pine, Corsican pine and larch are not native to the south-east of England and they therefore support fewer species than the native broadleaf woodland.
Some of the conifer plantations at Old Park Wood have also not been thinned, as would have been originally intended at planting, so are particularly dense and dark, further restricting the potential wildlife interest. However, some species, such as goldcrest and siskin are sometimes associated with conifer woodland.
Native mixed broadleaf woodland
Still present in pockets, such as in part of Century wood, is the mixed broadleaf woodland that would naturally have occurred over much of Old Park Wood.
Wet alder woodland
At Old Park Wood, wet alder woodland occurs on the clay along streams on the western side and supports the richest ground flora community within the woodland, including some County Scarce species. ‘Limberlost’ in particular is dominated by this woodland type. It is ancient in origin and so shares many of characteristics of the native mixed broadleaf ancient woodland area.
Secondary birch regeneration
Birch is a ‘pioneer’ species, being among the first tree species to colonise an open area. There are two species native to the UK – silver birch Betula pendula and downy birch B. pubescens both of which can be found at Old Park Wood. They are both fairly fast-growing, short-lived species, eventually giving way to slower-growing species such as oak. However, in areas of Old Park Wood, birch creates a dominant, dense, evenly-aged scrub, and some removal and management could enhance these areas for biodiversity, by creating a more diverse structure and providing light and space for other species.
Heather occurs in the field layer of several plots within Old Park Wood as well as along some of the rides, indicating the acid soils at the site.
In the past, these areas may have been more open and the extent of the heather dominated flora may have been more extensive than appears at present: indeed there is a record from the 19th century of heather being part of the harvest from the wood.
In particular, the Landcover map from 1961 indicates that a section on the south-eastern edge of Old Park Wood (corresponding with parts of Crow, Beech Mast and Edinburgh) was more open and dominated by scrub at that time; given the soils and the current remnant flora in this area, this is likely to have been dominated by heathland species. Heathland is very rare and threatened habitat in Kent, now confined to only a few places,
Rides and glades
There are many rides criss-crossing Old Park Wood. There are two main rides through the centre of the wood, one of which is metalled and has been drained for ease of vehicular access. Each compartment has at least one path/ride alongside for owner access and some compartments, notably ‘Bugle’ wood, are surrounded by rides on all sides.
Two public footpaths also run through the area of the wood covered by this plan.
Most of the paths and rides are currently unmanaged, overshadowed by a dense canopy cover. Those that are more open support some ground flora, including ferns and bryophytes, heather in the drier areas, and devil’s-bit scabious on more clay soils.
The southern end of Old Park Wood belonged to Thomas Hallow Roberts, esq. at the time of the Tithe maps in the 1840s. He owned the Glassenbury estate (still situated to the south of Old Park Wood), which included this southern half of ‘Park Wood.’
It is also recorded that a moated manor house enclosed by a deer park was built at Glassenbury in about 1473. The house was built on the site of an earlier 12th century building. These historical facts suggest that at one time, part of Old Park Wood, probably an area of the southern end, was wood pasture or parkland. This was an historically common method of managing trees for essential wood and livestock, such as deer, on the same land. Scattered trees were pollarded above the browse line, while animals grazed the vegetation underneath.
However, the field survey of the wood found little evidence of wood pasture or parkland. The closest habitat present today, is an area of ‘Limberlost’ wood which has some older (100-200 year old) oak trees scattered amongst an area of much younger birch woodland.
Map 5 species records & habitats
Important Features of Old Park Wood
The site is comprised of several different habitats and the biodiversity value of each of these habitats has been described below.
The mosaic of habitats present has the potential to support a wide variety of wildlife, as few species rely on one habitat type alone. The area that this management plan covers must also be recognised in context within the wider area of Old Park Wood.
There are five distinct habitats that can be considered to contribute to the resource of ancient woodland at Old Park Wood:
- Native mixed broadleaf ancient woodland
- Wet alder woodland
- Sweet chestnut coppice
- Conifer plantation or PAWS (‘Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site’)
- Secondary birch regeneration
The most significant are the remaining areas of native mixed broadleaf woodland, and the wet alder woodland (considered below). Both of these are likely to be derived directly from the ancient woodland that would naturally have occurred here. The sweet chestnut coppice and conifer plantation are considered separately below.
Native mixed broadleaf ancient woodland
Ancient woodland is a very important habitat, as it cannot be replaced or recreated.
Many species benefit in ancient woodland because of the long continuity of habitat and ancient woodland in Kent is important for several UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species, including common dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius. It is also important for bats and a variety of woodland birds and invertebrates.
The importance of ancient woodland in Kent is recognised by the fact that it is listed as a priority habitat type within the Kent Biodiversity Action Plan and has its own Habitat Action Plan (Anon, 2005). There are several objectives within the Habitat Action Plan that are relevant to Old Park Wood and which could be followed through in this management plan:
Maintain the existing area of ancient semi-natural woodland;
Increase the area of semi-natural woodland on ancient woodland sites by restoring native-species cover in existing coniferous plantations;
Develop management plans for ancient and semi-natural broadleaved woodlands that are not in Sites of Special Scientific Interest
The deadwood component is a particularly important feature of woodland, especially in wet woodland. It supports a range of specialist species such as wood-boring beetles and fungi that are not found elsewhere. Standing dead wood is also valuable, providing a valuable food source for species such as woodpeckers, and nesting sites for birds and bats.
Wet alder woodland
The wet woodland at Old Park Wood is ancient in origin, and therefore shares much of the significance of ancient woodland detailed above.
It is also recognised separately as a valuable habitat however. Wet woodland is a scarce habitat in Kent, covering approximately 231.2ha (Anon, 2005) and its importance is recognised by the fact that it is listed on the UK BAP and as a priority habitat type within the Kent Biodiversity Action Plan, with its own Habitat Action Plan (Anon, 2005).
There are two objectives within the Habitat Action Plan that are relevant to Old Park Wood and which could be followed through in this management plan:
Maintain the total current extent of wet woodland;
Develop management plans for wet woods that are not in management.
Sweet chestnut coppice with occasional native oak standards (on ancient woodland site)
As an introduced species, sweet chestnut is less important for wildlife than the native woodland. However, it is long-established at Old Park Wood, and the fact that it occurs on an ancient woodland site means that it still has the potential to support many species of ancient woodland.
However, much of the sweet chestnut is currently unmanaged and becoming increasingly unproductive, while the understorey area is dark and cold. Re-coppicing the chestnut on a 10-20 year rotation would allow in light and warmth, enhancing the habitat for a many species.
Conifer plantation (Scot’s pine, Corsican pine, larch) or PAWS (‘Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site’)
The conifer plantations at Old Park Wood are much more recently introduced to the site.. Conifer needles take a long time to decompose compared to the leaves from native broadleaf trees, and create a thick thatch that suppresses the ground vegetation and natural regeneration. This also tends to increase the acidity of the soil, further affecting the ground flora community.
As uniform plantations, they also lack the diverse structure in age and height that is present in native woodland, limiting opportunities for other wildlife, particularly nesting birds.
As the conifers at Old Park Wood are on an ancient woodland site however, they are still likely to support some of the original flora and understorey species, and others may be present in the seedbank. Of particular significance is the relict heathland flora present in some compartments.
One of the objectives stated in the Kent Habitat Action Plan for Ancient Woodland is to
Increase the area of semi-natural woodland on ancient woodland sites by restoring native-species cover in existing coniferous plantations
This could be included in this management plan, with a target to restore at least some areas of conifer at Old Park Wood.
Secondary birch regeneration (on ancient woodland site)
The secondary birch woodland, found in several areas of Old Park Wood, is also likely to be of value for the potential remaining ancient woodland communities that it supports.
It also has some importance for nesting birds and invertebrates, and possibly mammals such as dormouse. The even-aged structure is currently limiting opportunities for these species however, and some removal, thinning and management would enhance it for wildlife.
Heather occurs in the field layer of several plots within Old Park Wood as well as along some of the rides, indicating the acid soils at the site. Historical records indicate that the extent of heath land at Old Park Wood would have been greater in the past.
Heath land isparticularly uncommon and important habitat in the south-east of England and across the country. In Kent it is now confined to only a few places where it was once more widespread. It supports a characteristic flora and fauna, including heathers such as ling Calluna vulgaris, and birds like the nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus and as a consequence of habitat loss, many of these species are also now scarce or rare.
Lowland heath land is listed as a priority habitat type within the Kent Biodiversity Action Plan and has its own Habitat Action Plan (Anon, 2005). There are several objectives within the Habitat Action Plan that are relevant to Old Park Wood and which could be followed through in this management plan:
Maintain the extent of all existing areas of lowland heath land;
Significantly increase the extent of heath land;
Secure the appropriate conservation management of all existing and restored/recreated heathland
Rides and glades
The rides and glades are significant areas for biodiversity within the woodlandproviding sheltered, warm, sunny places for a variety of species: "a greater number of species inhabit the first 10m of any woodland or ride edge, than inhabit the remainder of the woodland" (Forestry Commission, 2005).
The rides at Old Park Wood have the potential to be of great value for a range of species.
The main ride through the wood is metalled, thus limiting opportunities for flora to the edges. However, there are many other rides, paths and tracks throughout the wood, which have the potential, if managed sympathetically, to support a rich assemblage of species, from ground flora and bryophytes to invertebrates and mammals such as bats. In particular, heather, and butterflies such as silver-washed fritillary Argynis paphia and white admiral Liminitis camilla have already been recorded in some places. Increasing the amount and enhancing the management of open areas in other parts of the wood would help to increase the populations of these species.
An ideal ride has between three and four vegetation zones from short grassland to tall herbs and bramble and more scrubby vegetation. It should have ‘scallops’ cut in to it to provide sheltered pockets and wider areas of light. Path junctions are ideal locations for creating wide, sunny glades.
Relict wood pasture potentially occurs at Old Park Wood, although it could not be positively identified during survey. Historical records indicate that it may have been a habitat present within part of the wood.
Wood pasture and parkland is particularly important for the veteran trees it supports. The trees within wood pasture were usually managed through pollarding. Pollarded trees tend to have a much longer life than unmanaged trees. They tend to develop various features (rot holes, deadwood in the canopy, small pools, cracks in bark, etc) which provide habitat for various species.
Lowland wood pasture and parkland is recognised as a UK and Local BAP Priority habitat.
Objectives from the Kent HAP for wood pasture & parkland include:
Ensure that the current area of wood-pasture in Kent is actively managed through suitable grazing and tree management.
Create new areas of wood-pasture and parkland in Kent where there is greatest opportunity and where this would not compromise nature conservation objectives for other habitats
The mosaic of habitats present at Old Park Wood is likely to support a diverse mix of wildlife. The Local Wildlife Site schedule particularly notes the rich fungus and bryophyte flora across the site and the good number of ancient woodland indicator species within the ground flora community.
However, many of the groups appear to be considerably under-recorded. Mammal, bird, invertebrate, amphibian and reptile surveys would build up a significantly better picture of species distributions across the wood. Further information on recording and contacts for recording groups (e.g. Kent Mammal Group, Kent Bat Group, Kent Ornithological Society, Kent Reptile & Amphibian Group) can be found from the Kent & Medway Biological Records Centre (KMBRC) www.kmbrc.org.uk. Ideally new species records should be sent to the KMBRC and the Conservation Officer for Local Wildlife Sites at KWT.
Of particular note are those species protected by European legislation, that must be considered before management is carried out.
The ground flora in the damper clayey areas is richer and more diverse than in other parts of the woodland, particularly where it occurs under the natural broadleaf woodland canopy. Two County Scarce species are noted in this area from the Local Wildlife Site schedule – marsh violet Viola palustris and large bittercress Cardamine amara.
Drier soils on the plateau support an important relict heathland flora, including species such as ling Calluna vulgaris. Heathland is a rare habitat in Kent and the characteristic species communities that it supports are also increasingly uncommon (see ‘Habitats’ section for further detail).
45 Ancient Woodland Indicator species are noted in the Local Wildlife Site schedule. These are species of vascular plant which take a long time to colonise more recently established woodland. The higher the number of AWI species, the higher the probability that the wood is of ancient origin, and the more biodiverse it is likely to be. Forty-five is considered to be a very good number of AWI species and is part of the sites’ Local Wildlife Site interest.
Fungi & lower plants
The Local Wildlife Site schedule notes that the site ‘supports an excellent fungus flora.’ In particular, the fungi species Boletus parasiticus & Boletus versicolor are Notable.
The fungal community within Old Park Wood provides essential services to maintain the health of the woodland ecosystem. They are intimately involved in tree and plant growth, as well as reducing dead organic matter, recycling nutrients into the soil and providing food for a range of other species.
There is also considered to be a rich and diverse bryophyte assemblage, with over 70 species recorded from the wider Old Park Wood site. Woodbanks, ditches and other earthworks, along with the wet woodland, are likely to be the most important areas for this group.
Few mammal records were gathered within the timeframe of this management plan and it is not considered that these are a true reflection of the mammal assemblage present at Old Park Wood. It is likely that further survey work would increase the number of mammal species known to occur within this site.
Roe deer Capreolus capreolus, fallow deer Dama dama and muntjac Muntiacus reevesii have all been recorded from the northern part of Old Park Wood. These species, particularly muntjac, are particularly significant from a management point of view, as they may browse newly-cut coppice.
Badger Meles meles is likely to be present, though it has not yet been recorded. This species is protected by UK legislation (1992 Badger Act).
Noctule Nyctalus noctula bat was recorded from somewhere within the close vicinity of eastern areas of Old Park Wood (at the grid reference TQ7538) within the last 20 years. Along with all other UK bat species, Noctule is a European Protected Species which means that it must be taken into account before carrying out management. Guidance is included at Appendix 2.
Another European Protected Species, hazel (or common) dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius, has not been recorded from the wood so far, but suitable habitat is present and this species may occur. Woodland managers should be aware of this species and its requirements and should try to ensure that best practice guidance (Appendix 3) is followed wherever possible.
The bird records available are again unlikely to be a true representation of the bird species present at Old Park Wood. The habitat mosaic present indicates that the bird assemblage is likely to be very diverse. It is likely that further survey work would increase the number of bird species known to occur within this site.
Four species have been recorded within close proximity to the north of Old Park Wood. Of these turtle dove Streptopelia turtur & tree sparrow Passer montanus are both UK BAP Priority species, having suffered recent dramatic declines. These species are both likely to benefit from ride management and coppicing sweet chestnut, particularly after 4 or 5 years when it becomes thick and scrubby. Tree sparrow nests in rot holes in trees close to farmland edges; ‘Limberlost’ and ‘Century’ therefore have the greatest potential to support this species.
Wooded heath, sweet chestnut coppice and felled areas of conifer plantation have the potential to support nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus - an uncommon & declining species. In coppice, nightjars require large coupes (>0.5ha) cut on short rotation e.g. 5 years.
Amphibians & Reptiles
The existing records for amphibians and reptiles are not considered to provide a true representation of the species assemblage present at Old Park Wood. It is likely that further survey work would increase the number of amphibian and reptile species known to occur within this site.
Grass-snake Natrix natrix has been recorded from ‘Limberlost’ wood. Other reptile species that may be present are common lizard Lacerta vivpara and slow-worm Anguis fragilis. Adder Viper berus could occur in the more heathy areas, particularly if areas are restored to wooded heath.
There are currently no records of amphibians. It is likely that common frog Rana temporaria and common toad Bufo bufo occur within the damper areas, such as ‘Limberlost.’ These areas and ponds such as that found in ‘Beech Mast’ could potentially also support smooth newts Triturus vulgaris, palmate newts T. helveticus and great crested newts T. cristatus. Great crested newts are a European Protected Species (see above) which means that they must be taken into account before management is carried out.
The present scarcity of records is not considered to reflect the true invertebrate assemblage at Old Park Wood. It is likely that further survey work would increase the number of invertebrate species known to occur within this site. The habitats present indicate that the assemblage is likely to be quite rich, particularly in the wet woodland.
Several butterfly species have been recorded from rides and cut coppice areas. In particular, white admiral Limenitis camilla, recorded the ride between ‘Crow’ and ‘Fox’ woods, is a UK BAP Priority species.
Historic and Cultural Features
Old Park Wood is considered to be an ancient woodland site: at least part of the site was almost certainly present in the 15th century.
Old Park Wood is situated in the High Weald, a characteristically wooded landscape that has retained a very high proportion of ancient woodland.
However, at Old Park Wood, much of the original canopy cover has been replaced at various times – mostly by sweet chestnut coppice and conifers. These areas are still important for the remaining species of ancient woodland that they may support, particularly within the ground flora assemblage. The remaining semi-natural ancient woodland cover, the mixed broadleaf and wet woodland areas, are the most valuable parts of the wood for their continuity of habitat and biodiversity, and for their links to the earliest historic environment within the wood.
Coppice and standards
The sweet chestnut coppice, while introduced to the wood by man, provides an important historic and cultural link.
Many woods throughout Kent were re-planted with this species (originally thought to have been brought to this country by the Romans), which was then coppiced, the wood being used for a huge range of purposes, including as hop-poles, tool handles, for making charcoal and in the paper-making industry. It is likely that much of the sweet chestnut at Old Park Wood was used as poles in the surrounding hop-fields, as Goudhurst was a centre of hop-growing in this country.
Oak standards would have been planted and allowed to grow up amongst the sweet chestnut coppice, to be cut down as larger timber, generally for use within building works.
Many people would have been involved in the management of the wood, a large number of whom would have been employed from the local area. The wood was owned by the local Glassenbury Estate for a period, and this was probably a huge local employer. The site, and the coppice in particular, therefore is likely to have strong cultural links for the local community.
There are many woodbanks throughout the wood. Some of these are large features with associated ditches, and others are becoming lost and eroded within secondary growth. Those woodbanks, and ditches where present, that mark present and historic boundaries are particularly valuable, denoting past difference s in landowner. A good example of this is present in the north of the wood, at the southern end of ‘Century’; here part of a woodbank and deep ditch system within Old Park Wood are the probable remains of the historic boundary between land owned by the Glassenbury Estate and that belonging to Earl Cornwallis at Linton, also indicated from the Tithe maps.
Other woodbanks within the wood are likely to mark historic coppice coupes, or cants, providing further cultural and historic links to the past management of Old Park Wood.
Other earthwork features within the wood, include ditches and a well and pond system. The latter may relate to the local Wealden Iron industry, historically very important over a long period of time. Springs fed a number of ponds which were created to feed gradually down into a much larger hammer pond, used for providing power to the forges and furnaces smelting the iron.
Rides & ancient paths
The rides that criss-cross the site are also important from a historical point of view. Originally created to facilitate the movement of timber, people and working livestock (e.g. horses, oxen) through the wood, these now support species assemblages that have come to rely on these permanent open areas of light and warmth over a long period of time.
Despite its status as ancient woodland, Old Park Wood has few ancient trees. This is to be expected from a wood such as this, which has been managed for its timber for a long period of time, as most standard trees would have been removed for use before attaining great age.
The most notable trees within Old Park Wood are the veteran pollards found along some of the boundaries of the wood. Also of importance are some of the older coppice stools found in several compartments (woodlots), which, if not yet ancient, have the potential to be veteran trees in the future, and have links back to the earliest coppice management within the wood.
Ancient trees are important as an inherent part of the woodland environment, and are valuable as providing continuity of habitat. They can support a wide range of species and are likely to be particularly important for bats, invertebrates, fungi and lower plants, as well as birds.
Constraints, Opportunities and Threats Assessment
A Constraints, Opportunities and Threats (COT) assessment was carried out for Old Park Wood. The aim of this was:
to examine those factors that may be currently limiting or threatening the biodiversity of Old Park Wood;
to identify opportunities to maintain and enhance the biodiversity of the wood and deliver local social benefits; and
to consider factors that may be limiting owner abilities to react to biodiversity threats, or to take advantage of opportunities that may be presented.
This assessment will then be used to inform management objectives and design appropriate projects.
Current potential and actual threats to biodiversity
Lack of coppicing/active management of overstood sweet chestnut. Resulting in limited opportunities for ground flora, dark and cold areas of woodland with low diversity and trees with low productivity
Introduced pine and secondary birch in compartments, and trees along unmanaged rides shading out and outcompeting relict heathland. Leading to loss of uncommon heathland habitat and associated characteristic scarce species.
Even aged secondary birch regeneration. Resulting in limited opportunities for invertebrates (particularly butterflies), nesting birds, and low ground flora diversity.
Differences in ownership either side of rides has potential to limit opportunities for ride enhancement, leading to lower diversity throughout the woodland.
Removal of fallen and standing deadwood through overtidying. Leading to loss of specialised saproxylic fungi and invertebrate species, reduced populations of bryophytes, limited opportunities for birds and bats to feed, nest or roost and overall reduction in the health of the woodland ecosystem.
Opportunities to enhance biodiversity and deliver social benefits
Maintain the overall diversity of habitats and species found at this ancient woodland site of county importance
Enhance relations and communication between the various owners of Old Park Wood to create a strong and supportive community, that allows individuals to meet aspirations for their wood, while ensuring that overall benefits to Old Park Wood are achieved.
To demonstrate that the owners of a lotted wood can work together to maintain and enhance the wildlife interest of Old Park Wood
Cooperation and collaboration between owners to facilitate coppicing of relict sweet chestnut through fostering/encouraging local markets for coppice products; shared costs of machinery & training; provision of access for machinery/wood movement; sharing knowledge, expertise and tools
Explore markets for coppice products, such as fencing and charcoal, locally, and further afield if the opportunity arises. There is a great opportunity here for the owners of Old Park Wood to get together to produce and locally market products from Old Park Wood.
Cooperation and collaboration between owners to manage specific areas for habitats such as wooded heath, through increasing the area of habitat; sharing knowledge and expertise; facilitating wider appreciation and enjoyment of specific habitats (i.e. other OPW owners, public)
Manage areas of secondary birch woodland: thin to increase age & structural diversity, providing opportunities for a wider range of species, particularly nesting birds
Cooperation and collaboration between owners to enhance management of the rides and create glades, increasing the biodiversity in these valuable areas
Improve and promote good relations with the local community in Goudhurst and Iden Green, and with users of the public rights of way running through the wood, particularly local users.
Promote enjoyment of the woodland resource to all ages, especially instilling an interest in the wildlife and environment of the wood in younger users of Old Park Wood
Constraints to managing Old Park Wood to maintain and enhance biodiversity
Accessibility and ability to move wood within the site and to remove wood off-site.
This has the potential to considerably limit the biodiversity of Old Park Wood, as it will constrain the ability to coppice overstood sweet chestnut, thin/remove pine and larch plantations, manage for specific habitats such as wooded heath, manage rides effectively and create glades.
Lack of specialist machinery, tools and equipment (either through availability or expense)
Again, this is could considerably limit the ability of owners to carry out management in those areas that will have most impact on biodiversity (i.e. overstood sweet chestnut, conifer plantations, rides and glades). However this could be overcome by owners working together and hiring/buying equipment as a community.
Markets for wood and wood products
The poor market for coppice products is a significant issue currently affecting coppice woodlands across south-east England and contributes greatly to the fact that so many coppice woods are now unmanaged and low in biodiversity. Any opportunities to promote local and wider markets for wood products should be encouraged.
Lack of co-operation from owners adjacent to rides
Many of the rides and paths travel between different compartments and it therefore requires owners to co-operate over management of these areas. This is particularly true at ride junctions where wide, sunny, open glades could be created to support a range of wildlife, if owners were willing to work together towards the same aims.
Lack of interest/support from owners to manage for specific habitats
This issue is similar to the constraint above. It affects the potential restoration of the areas of wooded heath in particular, as this habitat transcends compartments. While creation of small areas of heath within one compartment may be enough to support some characteristic species (e.g. ling), a larger area, taking in sections of three or more compartments would support a much wider range of heathland species and would help to support viable populations of these species.
Lack of knowledge/advice/guidance
Loss of communications with and support from woodland management advisors e.g. Kent Wildlife Trust /Kent High Weald Project/Forestry Commission for any reason, may potentially result in lack of management, loss of appropriate management or a decline in the cohesiveness of the overall management of Old Park Wood.
Lack of funding
Lack of funding and economic resources is a problem common to many woods in the south-east of England and this is linked to the poor markets that currently exist for English timber and wood products. Lack of funding reduces the ability for good management to be carried out and results in a loss of biodiversity. However, some grant aid is available and should be looked into further; in particular the Forestry Commission’s English Woodland Grant Scheme has several grants that could be applicable to Old Park Wood.
Aims and objectives for management
Old Park Wood is separated into a number of privately-owned plots. The owners of a number of these plots (with a combined area of just under 110 ha) have agreed to work towards a series of cohesive management aims, for the benefit of the wider woodland.
A discussion was held on the 8th December 2007 between the majority of these owners, Kent Wildlife Trust and Kent High Weald Project and the following aims and objectives are drawn from the outcomes of that meeting. These aims have tried to encompass differences in each plot and individual owners aims and aspirations for their woodland along with the requirements for collaboration, consultation and co-operation, working together, or as individuals, as appropriate.
To enhance biodiversity across Old Park Wood
To enhance & strengthen the sense of a woodland community
To encourage good practice for management within the wood
To encourage relations with the local community
To collaborate, consult & co-operate to meet objectives
working together where appropriate
working as individuals where appropriate
A. Foster biodiversity:
Maintain existing mosaic of habitats
Preserve distinct habitats, particularly wet woodland
Collaborate on the management of specific habitats, such as rides
Active management to enhance rides
Consideration to restoration of wooded heath in some areas
Effective management of conifer areas
Increase diversity of some areas of sweet chestnut coppice
Manage overdense oak standard canopy
Ensure Protected Species are considered adequately
Foster and maintain regular communications with woodland management advisors (e.g. KWT, KHWP, Forestry Commission)
Improve records of species’ groups
B. Explore markets for woodland products
C. Maintain and enhance a sense of community and facilitate the sharing of knowledge and expertise
D. Foster good relations with the local community
E. Ensure appropriate levels of Health & Safety are met, especially along Public Rights of Way and other rides/paths
F. Explore sources of further grants and funding
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