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How to create a new native woodland

By Helen Pentith  //  Wed 5th February 2014
Native woodland north yorkshire escrick

The Hagge Woods Trust is a team of volunteers dedicated to creating an entirely new woodland on the Escrick Park estate in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee. One thousand trees have already been planted in the wood by local volunteers. The new woodland neighbours the Hollicarrs, our timber holiday lodges, and will soon be open to their inhabitants as well as to the local community. Creating a native woodland from scratch is a demanding task – and there are a number of considerations that must be made when embarking on such a project. Find out what these are in Escrick Park’s quick guide to creating native woodland like the Three Hagges Jubilee Wood.

What’s the purpose of the woodland?

First, you need to decide if there’s any particular purpose you have in mind for the creation of the woodland. Is it to provide timber, to screen a development from view, or to protect a specific kind of endangered species? The team at Hagge Woods Trust decided that they wanted to make the new woodland a haven to all kinds of wildlife (both fauna and flora), while allowing the community to use the area for walking and biking. Creating an entirely new ecological haven from scratch is an incredibly complex task, and takes careful consideration of what native species to introduce (or reintroduce) to the area that will only have a positive impact upon existing wildlife.

More than just trees

To create a new native woodland, you can’t simply plant a few select trees and expect nature to do the rest. The soil must be the right type, of the correct depth and free from contaminants, while other layers of flora must also be put in place. The elements of the woodland ecosystem will all become interdependent, so when creating native woodland, you need to plant shrubs and plant wildflowers alongside the trees themselves if you want to make things last.

At Three Hagges Jubilee Wood a meadow was planted and flowered in its first year, attracting moths, bees and butterflies. The meadow was then cut and the hay baled to allow the perennials to grow without hindrance. To further allow the growth of perennials next year, yellow rattle has been sown on the meadow. This parasitic plant uses grasses as hosts, thus stopping the tougher grasses from taking over and outcompeting the wildflowers.

Long-term management

To prevent your new woodland from becoming just like any other – with tangles of brambles, masses of leaf litter and not much else beneath the canopy – intensive management is required. At the Three Hagges Jubilee Woods, the team hope to use coppicing extensively throughout the woodland. This involves felling young trees close to their bases in the winter, allowing fresh shoots to grow swiftly in the spring. This practice should occur on a 7-20 year cycle. Coppiced woodland lets more light reach the forest floor, allowing wildflowers and shrubs to flourish. This important practice is making a comeback in the management of small woodlands after being ignored for several decades. Obviously the cost of long-term woodland maintenance and management must be accounted for at the planning stage, where applicable.

In this brief article we’ve all but touched on the subtleties of woodland creation and management, but we trust that the Three Hagges Jubilee Wood is in good hands! Escrick Park is proud to support the project and hope that our Hollicarrs timber lodge owners will enjoy the woodland walks it will provide in future.

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