Highlights from an ancient woodland restoration event
See highlights from a restoration demonstration event in Wales, including timber processing, working with contractors, a lichenologist and paleoecology - analysing soil to discover the wood's history.
Video length: 00:06:35
>> Adam Thorogood, Woodland Trust outreach adviser: Today we are running an event here at Coed Cadw and it's a demonstration event. What we are trying to show is that woodlands can be managed sustainably and there are ways of managing woodlands, particularly on steep slopes.
We're really trying to safeguard woodland soils by managing the trees above the soil appropriately and the important thing is that we start to thin the conifer plantation crop in order that we get light coming into the understorey and that light really kick-starts the process of restoration which is what we’re trying to do.
We're just south of Machynlleth. It's a 35-hectare plantation on an ancient woodland site and we know that it's an ancient woodland because we can look back at the old maps and we can see that it's been a wood for a long time, whereas other areas that were maybe flatter, the tree cover was removed and they were turned into pasture. Some of these pastures are very ancient as well, but this wood, because it's so steep, has been maintained as a woodland for a long, long time. But that woodland has changed, and it’s been dynamic. It hasn’t stayed the same and one of the things that’s changed is that the native broadleaves which grew here before, were felled, probably in the 1940s, and the site was replanted with non-native conifers.
The chainsaw mill that we're demonstrating today just shows a way of very easily and quickly adding value to some of the timber that comes off the site, so it's a way of cutting into the timber and making boards and planks and beams out of it very easily and quickly on site, and it doesn’t need a, you know, large amount of machinery. It’s something that’s accessible to a number of people. It’s not very costly and actually it pays for itself very quickly through the value added to the timber, so, you know, a woodland owner could set such a thing up themselves and maybe with a bit of training could be creating usable timber themselves in their own wood which they could either sell into the, you know, into the local area or they could use themselves.
Because it's a really steep slope, the machinery we need is a skyline and that's operated by a local contractor, Mike Crutchley, and his team. One of the aims was to show the multi-disciplinary nature of woodland management and forestry so we’ve got practical demonstrations with the skyline and the chainsaw demonstration, but we’ve also got more scientific and ecologically focused workshops as well, so one of those is paleoecology.
So, we're working with Dale Sassoon who's a master student in Manchester University and he has come over and taken some soil-core samples of the local area and through those, using those you can see the different layers of pollen that have been laid down over time through the depth of the soil core and we get an idea then of what the forest cover has been through time so we can look back into the deep past and see that actually the woodland cover was mainly broadleaves and then gradually you can see conifers coming in over the last few hundred years as they were introduced to the country, and it gives us a picture of what the woodland was like through time.
So, in these deep river gullies below us there is a really important collection of lichen species which are woodland lichens and they're just clinging on really at the edges of the conifer plantation, and so working together with local lichenologist, Joe Hope, we've managed to create a list of these that are existing here in this wood. So, doing the thinning work we’re doing, that will increase the light levels gradually and allow these lichens to continue to exist and even to spread.
It's important to have a mixture of different types of woodland and where we've got ancient woodland it's really important to manage them appropriately and sensitively. We also need a flow of timber products so, you know, we have an increasing need for firewood. The UK imports a lot of timber so we have a need for milled timber for construction, that sort of thing.
My role with the Woodland Trust is as a woodland outreach adviser. So, I work with woodland owners and woodland managers in order to identify ancient woodlands and survey them and then to make recommendations for their management so that the ancient woodland features can be safeguarded and built into the woodland management plan into the future.
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