Working towards 'favourable status'
Working towards 'Favourable Status'
In order to fulfil the requirements of Natural England, the government’s advisory agency in the care of SSSI sites, Bickerton Hill needs to obtain ‘favourable’ site status.
‘Favourable status means one which is sustainable and where the threat from loss is reduced to a minimum. To achieve this, at least 50% of the site must be returned to lowland heath.
Much of the hill remained threatened by birch seedlings and in order to move towards achieving ‘favourable status’, Natural England directed that a further tree felling programme take place on the hill during the winter of 2104.
The felling programme encompassed trees which had self-seeded between the end of the Second World War and the present day. Some of these were in previously worked on areas, others were un-restored areas.
No ancient trees are involved, and blocks of woodland are retained as well as some trees situated within other areas - these are typically, oaks, rowans and holly - which will provide landscape diversity and interest, but set seed less vigorously than birch.
Trees adjacent to those areas restored under previous schemes were removed thereby reducing the fragmentation of the heathland. Much of the SSSI (around 50%) will still remain as woodland, the linking of fragmented heathland areas increases opportunities for wildlife and plant species to migrate and develop across the site. The greater the connections between areas of heath, the greater the opportunity for wildlife, flora and fauna to be successful in colonising the heathland landscape.
All felling work is licensed by the Forestry Commission under its Open Habitats Policy.
Heathland is a fundamental element of our cultural and agricultural heritage which is often misunderstood and is perhaps in more danger than any other landscape type of being lost altogether. A mature heathland is arguably one of the most magnificent of all our landscape types. At Bickerton, we have the opportunity to ensure that future generations will be able to experience this special landscape and environment type and glimpse a little of our history, which without this work would certainly be lost – along with countless threatened specialist heathland species.