Managing Errington Wood

People ask, "why do we try to manage the wood?"

If the woodland was left to nature, as a lot are, and Errington is no exception, then we would still have a woodland. The result, though, would not lend itself to people visiting and enjoying the facilities as they do now. There would still be trees, and the animals and creatures wouldn't notice. However, the wood would look vastly different to what you see now.

For centuries, woodlands have been managed by those making a living from them. The green woodworkers, furniture, hurdles etc. The charcoal makers. The hunters. The foragers of food and firewood. Because of the diverse occupations, small areas were cleared, huts were built, trees were coppied or pollarded. None of this takes place now, so we need to take over this work.

A woodland has 4 layers. The top and most obvious is the canopy. The layer below this is known as the shrub layer, then follows the plant layer and finally the ground layer. All 4 are needed to sustain a healthey wood.

Lets start at the top. An untended wood will allow the trees to seed and grow too close together. This will force them to seek the light and thus grow long and leggy with the canopy high. There will be no significant diameter to the trunk. If we can thin out the tree growth when young, it will give more room for the tree to grow. With a less dense woodland there is no competition for light and so the canopy is lower, more spread, and the tree will have a greater and stronger trunk. We carry out this type of work in the Winter when the sap is down, and the leaves have fallen. The cut down timber isn't wasted. We stack it to use for making charcoal in the Spring. (Have a look at our charcoal making page). With wood that doesn't lend itself to charcoal making, we can stack the thicker waste for habitat piles. These provide hibernating sites, shelter, and insect invasion. In all cases the brash is burnt. Unfortunately, we can't leave easily ignitable wood around these days due to the threat of vandalism. But don't worry, the carbon dioxide that is given off is balanced. Whatever you do with wood once it is cut down, the carbon dioxide that has been stored is given off. So stacking, burning or making charcoal can only result in that tree's CO2 content. It's just the time factor. Trees that are left are healthier and will live longer, resulting in more CO2 being stored.

As trees grow, they will seed, and new growth appears. This is most noticable with Ash and Sycamore. The new growth will form the shrub layer which will eventually replace any tree reaching the end of it's life. Other shrub trees are the smaller ones such as Elder, Holly and Hazel. The latter needs a bit of encouragement, and to that end we have done quite a bit of planting. As long as there is room this layer will flourish, so you can see now the reason for thinning.

We now come to the plant layer. This will include such things as the woodland flowers, Bluebells, wood anemonae, wood sorrell primrose and many more. Other plants to be encouraged are nettles, ground ivy, ferns. All have a use as food and shelter for the smaller creatures. In turn, this provides the woodland with a lot of its nutrients for future sustainability. Add to that, the pleasure to the eye and you can see why we are endeavouring to encourage their growth.

Finally there is the ground layer. The leaf mould, pine needles, decaying timber. These are all an important contributor to the nutrient provision. They also provide a habitat for below ground animal life.

Without light, it would be difficult to sustain the lower 3 layers. So we are back to the beginning. We must thin. The habitat piles etc are only giving nature a push. They take the place of natural fallen timber. The planting is mainly at the shrub layer level, but some species need that bit of a helping hand from us, in order to provide diversity.

If you look around Errington Wood, I'm sure you can see the benefit to the woodland from our work. Visit an area more than once. You will see over a period of time ,how what looks to have been devastated, will recover very quickly showing new regeneration, and plant life that has been dormant for many years, now returning.

In additon to the work above, the woodland is a place that we want people to visit and enjoy, so other work that has happened is path maintenance, and in some cases, the provision of new paths. The steps from the top of Pontac Rd that lead to the top of the wood have all been replaced or repaired. All 210 of them. The viewing platform around Peters Pond has been improved. Seats have been provided at a number of locations. The car park and picnic area have been improved to give a safer and more enjoyable reception to the wood. We have provided a sculpture trail. New entrance features at the walkways, and at the woodland entrance, have been provided.

I hope this article gives you an insight to our activities and the reason we do them. If you have a comment, then please use the web site to make it. Should you wish to join in with helping us, we usually meet on Fridays. Look on the home page for the latest insruction.

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