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MANAGEMENT OBJECTIVES and PROJECTS

    A Foster biodiversity

A 1: Maintain habitat mosaic

Rationale

Many of the species that currently occur at Old Park Wood are likely to be using several different habitats, exploiting different opportunities within them. The current habitat mosaic is therefore a significant factor supporting the biodiversity of the site, and should be preserved and enhanced.

Maintain extent of all habitats.

NB: For identified habitats, this project may be superseded through justification for other projects under this objective (see below)

A 2: Preserve distinct habitats (e.g. ancient woodland, wet woodland)

Rationale

There are some distinct habitats present at Old Park Wood that are of particular value for wildlife. These have been identified in the main text. Of particular significance are the areas of ancient native broadleaf woodland and wet woodland. These habitats should be targeted for further survey work to establish the features present in more detail, including improving records of the species assemblages supported. Based on these surveys, more detailed, specific advice should be sought to ensure the important features of these habitats are maintained and enhanced.

Commission species surveys to improve understanding of the species assemblages supported by wet woodland and ancient native broadleaf woodland. Priority species groups for management are birds, vascular plants and bats.

Commission more detailed surveys of the habitat features present in wet woodland and ancient native broadleaf woodland areas

Seek further management advice for wet woodland and ancient native broadleaf woodland areas, taking the above additional survey data into account

A 3: Collaboration between owners on the management of specific habitats (e.g. rides, wooded heath)

Rationale

Some of the habitats at Old Park Wood are present in more than one compartment, for example the relict wooded heath. Many of the rides and potential glade areas in particular travel between compartments and would require co-operation between woodland owners to manage them effectively for biodiversity gain.

Promote collaboration between neighbouring owners with specific habitats through encouraging and facilitating communication. This could be at least partly met through projects under other objectives e.g. C1 create website, C2 hold events etc.

Promote clear understanding for the reasons for management of specific habitats. Further communication and liaision with woodland management experts and advisors (see also Project ???) should help to ensure appropriate management and reduce disagreements over management techniques and aims

A 4. Active management to enhance rides

Rationale

The open, sunny areas are concentrated regions of biodiversity within the woodland. Enhancing the potential of these areas to support a range of species, through ride widening, diversifying edge habitats and introducing scallops, should be a priority.

Identify priority areas for introducing ride management. For example, along main rides, along those where the canopy is particularly dark, those that run through or between larger and/or particularly dark compartments, rides supporting relict heath communities

Manage three zones within the ride, as shown in the illustration below.

Fig. 20 Illustration indicates a woodland ride with three zones of management, enhancing the habitat for wildlife

From ‘Guide to managing woodland rides and glades for wildlife’

Forestry Commission South East England Conservancy, 2005

Introduce wide scallops along the ride, as shown in the illustration below. Narrower pinch points should be left at points along the ride, to maintain connectivity for species such as dormouse.

Fig. 21 Illustration indicates a woodland ride with scallops, to enhance the habitat for wildlife

From ‘Guide to managing woodland rides and glades for wildlife’

Forestry Commission South East England Conservancy, 2005

A 5. Consider restoring wooded heath in some areas

Rationale

Relict heathland communities are present in some areas of Old Park Wood. Heathland is an uncommon and declining habitat in Kent and supports a characteristic flora and fauna.. Re-establishing this habitat in particular areas of the site that are of lesser value for biodiversity, for example, in areas of recent conifer plantation, would greatly increase the wildlife value of the site and help to meet local Biodiversity Action Plan targets for Lowland Heathland, and potentially also for Nightjar. Retaining a proportion of the trees to create wooded heath, rather than open heathland, should retain much of the atmosphere of the woodland, reducing the impact on the character of individual compartments.

Key compartments are: Nightingale, Crow, Beech Mast, Edinburgh and Corsican.

Create wide, open glades within key compartments to encourage heathland communities, whilst still retaining much of the character of the compartment.

Give priority to widening rides through/between key compartments (this action will also be addressed through Project A 4).

Consider thinning trees over wider areas of relict heath, particularly in areas of conifer and dense canopy cover. Ideally thin to 80 %, with remaining trees in small, uneven, low density clumps, rather than scattered evenly across the area.

Restored areas of heath should thereafter be managed through cutting on rotation

This project can also be addressed through actions under Project A 3.

A 6. Ensure effective management of conifer areas

Rationale

The potential contribution of the conifer areas or PAWS (Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site) to the biodiversity of Old Park Wood is likely to be a lot higher than at present. There is potential for these habitats to support ancient woodland flora in some areas and wooded heath communities in others. The conifers are also likely to be favoured by some species, such as goldcrest.

However, in some areas particularly, the conifers are very dense and dark and require some form of management to enhance them for wildlife and also to improve the health of the remaining trees. Greatest consideration should be given to those areas with the greatest potential for supporting heathland and/or ancient woodland communities, and the possibility of removing/thinning the conifers to restore these valuable habitats.

Prioritise thinning in areas of greatest conifer density, e.g. Corsican pine plantation in Crow wood, Corsican Wood. Thin to around 30-40 trees per acre gradually to benefit tree health, increasing this to thin around 75% of the area, or more if desired

Identify potential for ancient woodland and heathland communities within conifer areas through walkover surveys

Consider creating wide glades and rides/extending or widening existing rides through conifer areas to introduce greater light levels

Consider actions under Project A 5 in respect to potential heathland communities

Consider thinning conifer in areas of greatest potential for/supporting best populations of ancient woodland flora species. Ideally up to 75% of conifer should be thinned. This could be staged over time

If it is desired that conifers are to be retained in a compartment, enhance the structural diversity through thinning to between 30-40 trees per acre and then further uneven thinning (i.e. to leave a mosaic of dense stands of trees and more open areas), and encouraging natural regeneration.

A 7. Increase biodiversity in some areas of sweet chestnut

Rationale

The areas of sweet chestnut were historically managed through rotational coppicing, largely to produce poles for use within the hop industry. As this management practice has declined, these areas have become very dark, dense and cold. However, they have the potential to support a diverse range of species, including ancient woodland ground flora communities, invertebrates, bats and birds. Important nesting opportunities will be provided after a couple of years as the re-growth forms a thicker, shrubby understorey. Rotating this management between compartments around the wood would provide continuous habitat opportunities for a range of species.

 

Fig. 22 Illustration indicates a coppice cycle and its value for wildlife

Coppice sweet chestnut on a rotation of around 10-20 years. Coppicing should be undertaken during the period November – March. All workers should be made aware of the potential presence of dormice under the coppice stools. Cut logs should be stacked within the site. Coppiced trees should be re-coppiced on a 15 – 20 year cycle.

Explore the use of trained working horses to facilitate timber movements

This project should also be addressed through actions under Project A 3.

A 8. Manage overdense oak standard canopy in sweet chestnut areas

Rationale

Standard trees (generally oaks) were typically grown within an area of coppice, to be cut down at an older age providing timber for building. However, at Old Park Wood in some areas of the sweet chestnut coppice, the oak standards have not been managed and are growing in dense clumps. Not only is this likely to reduce the quality of the timber, but under this dark canopy, light levels are much reduced and any sweet chestnut that is re-coppiced will struggle to grow back.

Removing some of the oak standards to a produce a density of 8-12 standards scattered per acre, will reduce competition to the sweet chestnut coppice and other understorey plants, whilst retaining some oaks as important habitat in their own right.

Fell occasional standard oaks where the canopy is overshading the understorey (i.e. where three or more oaks are clustered. Prioritise areas where coppicing is planned, as overshading will strongly limit the ability of coppiced trees to regrow. All workers should be made aware of the potential presence of dormice, and should be aware of the Guidance note produced by the Forestry Commission (see Appendix 3). Cut logs should be stacked within the site.

Explore the use of trained working horses to facilitate timber movements

This project should also be addressed through actions under Project A 3.

A 9. Ensure Protected Species are considered adequately before management is carried out

Rationale

Several species that occur in woodland habitats are given some protection by the law. The key species that are likely to occur at Old Park Wood are badger Meles meles (protected by the 1992 UK Badger Act), common (or hazel) dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius and any species of bat (protected by the EU Habitats Directive, implemented in the UK as the 1994 Habitats Regulations, as amended 2007).

hese species must be considered before management is carried out, to ensure that there is little likelihood of adversely affecting individuals or the species’ population within the wood, and thus avoiding causing an offence. To this end, the Forestry Commission with Natural England have produced best practice guidance notes to aid effective woodland management without causing an offence, and this guidance should be followed at Old Park Wood as far as is possible.

If possible, commission surveys of European Protected Species, particularly dormice and bats. Surveys should be carried out by appropriately licenced persons. If surveys are not feasible, it should be assumed that common dormouse and at least some bat species are present, and management should therefore take these into account.

Ensure that Best Practice Guidelines produced by the Forestry Commission/Natural England (that for bats and dormice is attached at Appendices 3 and 4) are followed where relevant.

This project should also be addressed through actions under Project A10

A 10. Encourage and maintain a high level of management, through fostering regular communications with woodland experts and advisors (i.e. Forestry Commission, Kent Wildlife Trust, Kent High Weald Project)

Maintain liaision and communications with Kent Wildlife Trust through organising more detailed surveys of individual compartments, seeking advice over management of specific habitats i.e. heathland restoration, wet woodland, and the possibility of hosting study days etc and Old Park Wood.

Maintain liaision, communications and involvement of Kent High Weald Project particularly through organising events, especially where aimed at providing management advice and training.

Maintain and foster liaision with the Forestry Commission, particularly through ensuring felling licences are applied for where appropriate, liaising with the Forestry Commission over management for European Protected Species where necessary and communicating with the Forestry Commission over the possibility of funding management works via the English Woodland Grant Scheme.

A 11. Improve records of under-recorded species groups

Rationale

In order to ensure that management carried out at Old Park Wood is to the benefit of wildlife, it is important to know which species are present and where they are. Very little is currently known about some species groups at Old Park Wood. In particular there are very sparse records of mammals, birds, invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians.

Some surveys may have to be carried out by an outside expert. Surveyors must have licences where appropriate (e.g. dormouse surveys) and have had adequate training (e.g. small mammal trapping surveys). However, owner involvement in surveys is important to increase interest, enjoyment and understanding of their woodland environment. For some groups, such as wildflowers, birds and butterflies, recording by owners could also be a good way of ensuring records are always kept up to date, providing an indication of whether management is having the desired affect on the wildlife of Old Park Wood.

Organise a butterfly survey(s) as a priority, to engender interest in species recording among woodland owners. A walk/transect that took in different areas within the wood (e.g. sunny rides, heathy areas, conifer plantation, sweet chestnut coppice, damper woodland) should provide a more comprehensive species list.

Liaise with KWT Land Management Advisors to organise individual compartment walks, with the aim of providing a more detailed overview of each woodlot, identifying key habitat features and species that may be supported.

Encourage owners to maintain a running list of species observed in their compartment.

Encourage owners to attend KWT Study Days. These are held on a variety of different topics to do with wildlife and the natural world, and include many aimed at encouraging beginners and improvers to identify various species groups. Of particular interest may be: small mammal identification, birdwatching for beginners, birds of woodland in spring, Kentish butterflies, introduction to wildflowers.

Liaise with KWT about the possibility of using Old Park Wood as a base for future study days.

Communicate with local species groups and the Kent & Medway Biological Records Centre (KMBRC) to organise species surveys and ‘guided walks’ of specialist groups such as bats and invertebrates. Consider holding annual public recording events at the wood, open to local people and owners of the wood. These could concentrate on one group e.g. spring flowers, or could just encourage recording of any species.

Consider signing up to the KMBRC’s Land Access Database. See www.kmbrc.org.uk and Appendix 4 for further details.

All records should be passed onto the Kent & Medway Biological Records Centre (KMBRC), in order to help them build a better picture of the wildlife that occurs across Kent.

    B Explore markets for wood products

Rationale

The market for wood products is currently poor, especially when the historical importance of wood is considered. The fall in demand for wood and wood products is significant reason why woodland management, particularly coppicing, has suffered such a decline, and with it the associated decline in woodland biodiversity. A move towards trying to improve markets for wood is currently gaining ground, particularly with the idea of wood as a renewable ‘biofuel.’ Exploring and encouraging local and wider markets for wood and timber products will help to provide further incentive for managing the woodland, to benefit biodiversity and re-connect local people with their cultural heritage. This will also help to meet aspirations of some woodlot owners.

B 1: Maintain current ventures selling charcoal and other products at local farmshops

Maintain relationship with Taywell Farm Shop

Consider building up a greater supply of charcoal, for example, through encouraging other owners to contribute

B 2: Explore, consider and encourage the creation and supply of other wood-based products (e.g. willow baskets, pea sticks, products from wood-turning, etc)

Hold events to exchange skills in creating wood products, inviting in external experts where skills are not held within Old Park Wood

Consider joint days out to attend courses on using traditional craft skills

Attend local fairs and events where possible, to promote and encourage the interest in and sale of wood products to local people

B 3: Explore the possibility of running a stall at local farmers’ markets

B 4: Consider the desirability and practicality of using the website for advertising and marketing woodproducts

B 5: Consider the use of a consultant to provide a better idea of how to use the woodland sustainably

    C Maintain and enhance a sense of community and facilitate the sharing of knowledge and expertise

Rationale

A strong and sympathetic woodland community will encourage and enable woodlot owners to carry out management for the overall benefit of Old Park Wood, through providing opportunities for training and social events, providing greater opportunity for sharing knowledge and expertise, encouraging collaboration over management of particular habitats, facilitating greater cooperation over tools, machinery and access for management and providing support for owners over any issues and conflicts that may arise.

C 1: Create a website

Design should take into account use of the website as a forum for discussion, communication between owners and as a focus for marketing events to owners and the wider local community. A dedicated page for children’s notes, ideas, drawings, photographs, etc should be included. Use as a marketplace, or advertising space for wood products may also be desired (see under Project B4).

C 2: Hold at least one annual event where all owners are encouraged to meet together

This should be open to all owners of Old Park Wood and should be in a relaxed setting, for example over a BBQ. It could be linked into another owners’ event, such as a guided walk, but should give the opportunity for any issues to be discussed. Holding it in a different woodlot each year would also provide the opportunity for visiting different parts of the wood and discussing management in various areas.

C 3: Foster enjoyment of the woodland environment and especially encourage understanding and respect through enjoyment as a family amenity resource

Organise family-oriented events, guided walks and recording days in the woodland, for example, wood-craft have-a-go days, basic woodland plant/flower identification, campfire evenings, etc. particular seasonal activities, such as Easter Egg Hunts could be organised. These actions could also help to contribute to Objective A11.

C 4: Maintain individual aspirations within the wider aims and objectives for management of the wood

Encourage involvement of owners in wider events and activities, through ensuring advertising and invites are sent out well in advance and cover a range of different topics.

All major decisions on the management of the wood, that may affect more than one woodlot owner should be made by a Committee and all owners of Old Park Wood must have the right to representation on that Committee, as set out in the Constitution of the Friends of Old Park Wood.

Manage individual aspirations within the wider aims for the wood (as set in this management plan) sympathetically to reduce the possibility of conflict

Promote enjoyment of the woodland environment, and maintain individual aspirations without compromising the wider aims and objectives

    D. Foster good relations with the local community

Rationale

Old Park Wood is a large area of woodland, close to the villages of Goudhurst and Iden Green. Historically, the majority of the wood belonged to the local Glassenbury Estate. It is likely that many of the local people would have been employed by the estate and involved in working at Old Park Wood.

Nowadays local people are no longer involved in the management of the wood. Old Park Wood is currently split into a number of privately-owned woodlots, the large majority of which are not owned by local people. This currently engenders a separate woodland community, not involved in local activities, and is likely to encourage a sense of ‘them and us.’ Local people may resent the loss of cultural and historical links to the wood and feel a related local of loss identity.

However, there is still public access via footpaths through the wood, and this is likely to be used by local walkers. Encouraging good relations with the local community should help to reduce hostility and suspicion of management being carried out in the wood, reducing the likelihood of trespassing and inappropriate activities within the wood. Fostering better links with local people may also help to discover further information on the history of Old Park Wood. Opportunities for using & encouraging local markets and local services may also arise, to the benefit of both the local community and the community of Old Park Wood.

Project C 1 should help to address this objective, through providing a public forum for discussion, provide some transparency and reasoning behind management activities and providing an open focal point for advertising and marketing events.

D 1: Ensure appropriate use of Public Rights of Way (PROW) & discourage inappropriate use of PROW

Liaise with Kent Highways to ensure that PROW are adequately signposted and routes are clear

Install at least one interpretation board which can be viewed from a PROW, which communicates some of the main features of Old Park Wood, its current management and highlights the reasons behind management techniques such as coppicing. It should also gently remind the general public to remain on PROW

Ensure that it is easy to use the PROW. For example, if a tree has blocked the path, create a diversion until it can be cleared away, before users of the PROW create their own diversion, which may create conflict with other woodlot owners and/or aims for management. If there are particular areas of the PROW that become very boggy and churned up, consider the use of woodchip as a path surface in these sections.

D 2: Consider holding events to which the local community are invited

Hold at least one event annually to which local people are invited. An event with an aim, such as a guided walk, or a woodland archaeology day, may be more likely to promote interest and encourage people to come along. A series of two or three events over the year may also increase interest by providing the opportunity for people to see the woodland environment at different times of the year.

D 3: Attend local fairs and events where possible, as under project B 2, in order to join in and engage with the local community and to promote the work carried out and items produced (e.g. stools, bowls, baskets, bean poles) in Old Park Wood.

    E. Ensure appropriate levels of Health & Safety are met, especially along Public Rights of Way and other rides/paths

Rationale

Health and Safety is seen as an increasingly important issue in many areas of the countryside. Forestry operations and woodland environments have the potential to pose high risks to managers, contractors and the public.

Old Park Wood is bounded by at least one road and has several public footpaths passing through. Its present ownership made up of small woodlots increases the potential number of people that may be in the wood at one time, and may also mean that there are more likely to be families and children present within the wood.

It is therefore of great importance that appropriate levels of health and safety are met, in particular along high risk areas such as along footpaths and beside roads.

E 1: As a matter of priority produce a map of Old Park Wood, identifying areas of high, medium and low priority with regard to dangerous trees

Produce a map of Old Park Wood, either by compartment, or as one site map, which identifies areas for checking for dangerous trees. High priority areas would be those where there would be a higher likelihood of someone being hurt or killed by a falling branch or tree, e.g. along public footpaths and busy rides, and where several trees have already been identified as dangerous. Medium priority areas may be those with less traffic. Low priority areas would be the centre of plots where people very infrequently pass through.

E 2: Encourage all owners to make a note of any tree inspections they may carry out. In the unfortunate event of an accident, these records are likely to be crucial in determining liability

E 3: Encourage all owners to take out appropriate levels of insurance

E 4: Encourage each owner to read and retain a copy of the document ‘Managing Health & Safety in Forestry’ published by the HSE and available for download on their website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/forindex.htm.

E 5: Liaise with ‘Woods For All’ over ensuring dangerous trees are managed along the areas that they retain

    F. Explore sources of grants and funding

Rationale

Coppicing, ride management and woodland grazing have greatly declined in this area of England, as a result of the demise in demand for coppice products. This is widely acknowledged and affects the future biodiversity of much of Kent’s woodland. The market for wood from coppice is currently limited and as a result there is little or no financial incentive for landowners to manage or restore coppice rotations. It is possible that the situation could improve over time with technological development and growth in the biofuels market.

However, in the meantime, other sources of funding are likely to be required to facilitate implementation of projects identified in this management plan. The Forestry Commission make various grants available (aimed at practical management work) in the form of the English Woodland Grant Scheme, which typically cover around 50 percent of the cost of contractors. Other local funding may be available, particularly for supporting community events; Kent High Weald Project may be able to assist in exploring these.

F 1: Explore possible further sources of grants and funding for management and other projects, for example Forestry Commission England Woodland Grant Scheme, further KCC small grants, Breathing Spaces, Access for Nature, SEEDA RDPE funding.

F 2: Maintain communications with KWT and KHWP, as these organisations may have knowledge about/access to other funding opportunities

Five-year Work Plan

Usually Kent Wildlife Trust Land Management Advisors would provide a table that prioritised the projects proposed above and indicated the spread of tasks to be carried out over a five year period.

However, in this instance, it was decided that individual Work Plans in this format should be drawn up for each woodlot. These will be based on this management plan and more detailed surveys of each woodlot (to be carried out by Kent Wildlife Trust). Providing Work Plans in this way should clarify the priorities for each owner, taking into account the overall aims of woodland management alongside individual owner aspirations.

 

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