Can't see the wood for the trees - how we manage our woodlands

Arnside and Silverdale

Woodland covers one third of Arnside and Silverdale, breaking up the lush, pasture fields and limestone walls and lining valleys and hill tops. Our woodlands are characterised by the coppiced hazel trees and ancient old yew trees which are often seen growing out of cracks in mossy limestone.

As you walk around our sites in the winter you'll often see a ribbon of smoke appearing out of the top of some trees or hear a chainsaw in the distance. Rangers and volunteers spend much of their winter carrying out woodland management work, when the birds aren’t nesting, and the trees are shutting down for the season.

Continuing with the centuries-old tradition of coppicing, where trees are cut to the base to encourage re-growth, rangers open areas of woodland to let light in. Using a mixture of new and traditional tools, thinning the trees through coppicing creates open glades where violets, primroses, wood anemone and bluebells can come up in the spring and attract a range of insects.

Arnside and Silverdale primroses

The woodlands aren’t coppiced in one go but in patches to create a mosaic of open glade alongside areas of bramble, dense regrowth and mature trees which create a perfect mixed habitat for so many species. By doing this, wildlife still has a home while the newly-coppiced area temporarily grows back up. Once coppiced, an area of woodland won't be coppiced again for several years.

Coppicing may look destructive when you look at a newly-coppiced woodland but look in spring and see the light coming in and all the flowers flourishing.The woodland will come back to life again and the trees will grow back stronger and healthier and the piles of brashwood created by coppicing make excellent deadwood habitats for wildlife as there’s more to woodland than just trees.

Woodland habitat is also about invertebrates and ground flora and fungi and some of our best bits of woodland are where there are no trees at all. Rangers leave dead wood like fallen branches or rotten trunks on the ground to create its own amazing habitat and in just one square kilometre of woodland there is more biomass and weight in all the fungi than in all the trees put together.