Working with the RSPB to support sustainable woodland management

posted on March 10, 2014

Paul Orsi and Gabriel Hemery (Sylva Foundation) recently met with members of the RSPB Woodland and Reserves team at a small woodland reserve in Buckinghamshire. The wood was bequeathed to the RSPB in the 1950s and is managed by the reserves team based in Otmoor.

Sylva's Paul Orsi meets with members of the RSPB Forestry and Reserves team at a small woodland reserve

Sylva’s Paul Orsi talks with members of the RSPB Forestry and Reserves team in a small woodland reserve

The woodland is primarily managed for biodiversity and access, with active management focussing on the maintenance of an important area of meadow habitat, together with clearance of footpaths and rides.  Discussions during the visit centred on how more active and productive management could improve the woodland for biodiversity as well as bringing in a small amount of income to offset running costs.

There were commonalities in approaches between the two organisations and it was stimulating to see how we were looking at the same challenges and opportunities through different lenses.

The team from the RSPB were interested in looking at how they could collaborate with other woodland owners, in what is a heavily-wooded area, to bring about economies of scale and to achieve landscape scale biodiversity benefits.

We look forward to continuing to work together to help bring more woodlands into management, so that they can thrive both ecologically and economically for the benefit of everyone.


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Good Woods supports biodiversity in North Wessex Downs AONB

posted on February 7, 2014

Good Woods visits to a cluster of small ancient woodlands in West Berkshire have helped four woodland owners address the issues associated with bringing small ecologically-rich woodlands back into management.

Between July and December 2013, ten neighbouring woodlands in the Hampstead Marshall to Inkpen Biodiversity Opportunity Area in West Berkshire received Good Woods visits. These woodlands, some small, some ancient, mostly broadleaved, and one a SSSI, are owned by four different families.

This is a heavily-wooded area on the clay land beneath the high chalk downs and Walbury Hill to the south, and the wetland habitats of the River Kennet to the north.  It is a patchwork landscape, characterised by a myriad of small isolated native broadleaved woodlands with farmland and hamlets between.

Many of these woodlands are ancient semi-natural woodlands and therefore designated as local wildlife sites, providing habitat for locally important species and ancient woodland indicators such as the small-leaved lime tree and herb paris. However, a large number of these woodlands have become fragmented or squeezed over the years as a result of agricultural or housing pressures, many being under-managed, resulting in increasingly small and fragmented patches of woodland amidst a sea of generally intensively managed farmland. These small woodlands can become ‘islands’ particularly for those species unable to travel far, such as small mammals, invertebrates and plants.

The Good Woods visits, organised by Meg Chambers, the Good Woods network member in this area, introduced all four owners to the woodland management planning service, myForest and the Woodland Star Rating scheme, which provides woodland owners with the necessary tools by which they can assess and plan future management work. As well as providing them with site-specific woodland management advice, the owners were made aware that neighbouring woodland owners had also received Good Woods visits and were facing many of the same management issues.

It is important that landowners are aware that their woodland, however small, is part of a wider wooded landscape, and that it pays a crucial part in the success of woodland wildlife in the area. Managing woodlands at a landscape-scale, linking them together with sensitively managed farmland, road verges and gardens can transform these isolated patches of woodland into a series of ‘stepping stones’, or refuges for wildlife, creating a network of woodland habitats allowing key woodland species such as the dormouse, brown long-eared bat and betony to move through the landscape and thrive.

Meg Chambers

Meg Chambers is a Network Member for the B&Q Good Woods Project in the North Wessex Downs AONB project area.

Contact Meg by email

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Good Woods advice for a Site of Special Scientific Interest

posted on October 1, 2013

Jen Katan from B&Q and Jude Hassall from Lantern visited Carol and Dominic Kinsella’s woodland near Goudhurst, Kent as part of the Good Woods project. Their plot is part of the bigger Combwell Wood, which has been split into lots and sold. As a result there are many owners of this one large woodland.

Providing coppice management advice during a Good Woods visit

Providing coppice management advice during the Good Woods visit to the Kinsella’s SSSI woodland

The Kinsella’s wanted some advice and guidance as to how to manage their woodland as active management hadn’t taken place for quite some time.  Ian Johnstone from the Kent High Weald Partnership was the advisor for the day.

The woodland is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), designated for its uncommon Atlantic bryophyte communities (mosses and liverworts) found in the ghylls and is a mix of largely chesnut coppice with oak standards, some of which are now reaching maturity. Ian talked about how those trees might be harvested to provide timber into the local market, a good revenue source for the owners and to maintain the character and habitat of the existing woodland. Ian also discussed coppicing practice with the Kinsellas and gave them an introduction to the local coppicing group working in Combwell Wood.

Mosses and fungi on an old birch stump in the SSSI woodland

Mosses and fungi on an old birch stump in the SSSI woodland

In a walk of the woodland we identified an ancient earth bank that probably formed part of an old boundary or pathway through the wood that the owners hadn’t known existed, some beautiful old conifers and heather in one section of the woodland and a disused charcoal burner in a clearing near the centre of the plot.  In the far corner of the woodland is a naturally draining pond, which fills up with winter rain and stays full for a large part of the year. This pond provides a habitat for frogs and newts, which the owners have spotted when visiting the woodland.

The owners were also keen to get involved in a local dormouse audit as these creatures have also been seen in their patch of woodland and Ian was able to pass on the details of this local initiative.

The visit was really well received by the owners; priority actions were identified and the report that Ian will produce as a result of his visit will give them a clear vision for their woodland and some steps to begin to achieve it.  The Good Woods visit has enabled these owners to take a fresh look at their woodland, give them a deeper understanding of how to sustainably manage it and real practical advice and help with how to do it.

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Good Woods supports dormouse habitat in Kent woodland

posted on August 19, 2013

The Heaths Countryside Corridor received a visit from woodland advisor Mike Phillips on 14th August through the Good Woods project. The charity, local to the villages of Charing Heath and Lenham Heath in Kent, purchased Hurst Wood from the company that owns High Speed 1 after the woodland had been dissected by the building of the new railway. It was bought with the intention of allowing responsible public access and to safeguard the wildlife that has made Hurst Wood its home.

Jon Heuch (Chairman of Heaths Countryside Corridor) with dormouse sculpture and mushroom seats

Jon Heuch (Chairman of Heaths Countryside Corridor) with dormouse sculpture and mushroom seats

The woodland is unique as it comprises roughly equal areas of Ancient Semi Natural Woodland as well as newly planted secondary woodland that was planted on ancient woodland soil translocated during the construction of High Speed 1. The current management of the woodland is primarily for the dormouse which receives a high level of protection under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations (2010). Dormouse survey work over recent years has shown that increasingly, dormice are now favouring the area of secondary woodland over the ancient woodland. During the visit, this phenomenon and the reason for its occurrence was discussed at length and advice was given about coppicing the ancient woodland to improve the structure and species diversity of this area that is a requirement for top quality dormouse habitat.

In Kent Good Woods is being delivered by the Kent Downs AONB Unit and the Countryside Management Partnerships. Woodland owners in Kent interested in receiving a visit should contact Mike Phillips:

Further information and advice on management in woodlands for dormouse habitat: read more


The Good Woods project is sponsored by B&Q with the aim of promoting good woodland stewardship. For more information contact Amy Hammond:

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