Woodland Management at Buckland
Woodland management is a big part of our work in the countryside, but many of you will surely have asked, ‘Why do we need to manage the woods? They have been here for countless years – can’t they look after themselves?’
It is believed that long ago, much of Britain was covered in blankets of woodland, sometimes called wildwood or natural woodland because it was unaffected by the actions of humans.
None of this woodland is believed to exist today because it has all been either cleared or managed in one way or another.
Most ancient woodlands like Bucklands, have only survived into antiquity as a result of some form of traditional management. A number of the techniques that were used are relevant to both the historical and the ongoing management of the woods on the estate and are greatly beneficial to the overall health of the woodland and its inherent wildlife:
Buckland's monastic woodland
The Abbotts of Buckland would once have cleared some of the woodland in order to help fund the silver mining in the local area. The Abbotts were mindful of this process and halted any more work in the woodland to protect the surrounding trees and area.
Historically, the aim of management was purely production; techniques were designed to maximize yields and minimize losses that would otherwise have been sustained through the actions of grazing animals.
All materials would have been removed and utilized and nothing would have been wasted. The majority of the wood supplied for the mining industry was supplied by Bucklands woodlands.
The Abbotts and monks and other notable residents at Buckland, would obviously have had an awareness of wildlife. But with the needs of the woodland to provide fuel, income etc - its survival and success wouldn’t have been central to their work like it is to ours.
Great North Woods - Our aim today
The Great North Wood at Buckland Abbey is what is known as a Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site (PAWS). Our goal is to restore it to its former glory of diverse habitats by removing the plantation trees and re-planting with mixed native broad leaf trees.
Hopefully in a few hundred years it will start to resemble its former glory, with mighty oaks and lofty beech providing shade for a myriad of wild flower species.
What are we doing at the moment in the woodland?
The Ranger team have been busy felling the trees in order for the woods to develop into a mix of native deciduous broadleaves as well as having pockets of coniferous softwood species.
The orange crosses that you can see on some of the trees, simply indicate trees that are likely to be felled. We will be busy thinning and removing trees throughout our woodlands.
The areas of open space will be restocked with native broadleaved species either by the process of natural regeneration or by the planting of locally sourced trees by the Ranger team.
The track side edges will be left as open space to encourage woodland wildflowers and shrubs to develop, which in turn will be an important habitat for a range of species, including bats and butterflies. The Silver Washed Fritillary is just one of the butterfly species that will benefit from this woodland work.
Harvesting contractors are used in this operation as they have the expertise and are often able to send the timber to local mills to be turned into paper, building materials and biomass.
When will this work be happening?
The estate walks are closed during the weekdays in January and are open for walking every weekend until we re-open on 15th February.