Woodland management at Chartwell

Autumn woodland at Chartwell, a National Trust property in Kent

With 25 acres of pure woodland to be found at Chartwell woodland management is a major area of conservation work for our ranger team.

Conservation management

Outdoor conservation management and especially woodland management is a very complex process. Everything from the wider location, site-specific information and the different types of habitat found in an area are all considerations that affect conservation planning – on top of some basic fundamentals. All of these together help inform the decision-making process wherever the management is taking place and whatever the habitat may be.

A dormouse being handled by a licensed warden

The UK was once largely covered by trees but just 13% of its land area is now woodland. Only 1.2% of that is semi-natural ancient woodland making the UK one of Europe’s least wooded nations. Woodland birds have declined by 20% since 1970 and woodland butterflies 51%. 11% of woodland species are now categorised as threatened (state of nature report 2016).

People have been managing woodland for thousands of years by harvesting material for both commercial and domestic use, clearance for dwellings, (and in the case of West Kent, quarrying) and through the use of grazing animals which in Kent was often pigs, a process known as pannage.

The decision to carry out a particular management regime at a site is dependent on multiple different factors such as biological and ecological survey data, historical data, natural processes and current species compositions. All decisions, however, are made keeping long-term strategy in mind and thinking about the bigger picture – all of nature has links and associations far beyond what can easily be seen.

Health and safety can be one of the biggest influences on decision making. If a tree poses a danger (this will be picked up during robust annual tree inspections) to visitors – if it is near a path or dwell area for instance – then work to it will be prioritised. This could mean felling, reduction or other safety work. Where possible, it may be possible to re-route paths, which can help us avoid carrying out the more extreme measures.

What are we doing at Chartwell?

Our countryside team at Chartwell play a busy role throughout the West Kent countryside to manage and support nature.

Paths and woodland tracks (rides), need active management to allow more light in between the trees and down to the floor, creating a richer environment for wildlife. This also adds a layer of safety for visitors. This is carried out by ‘selective thinning’, whereby trees will be selected for felling based on species, age and structure, and in some cases may include mature healthy trees.

In order to help with creating a varied habitat suitable to the widest possible assemblage of species, our rangers also carry out a technique called ‘veteranisation’ whereby we ring bark a tree in order to allow it to die standing which creates a rich habitat for invertebrates as it decays and dies.

badger, sunlight

Wildlife at Chartwell

Chartwell is a great place to find a wide range of wildlife with different habitats for different animals, insects and birds. Check out our list to discover some of these species living here today.

In the spring, nature surveys begin with different species surveyed throughout the year such as birds, butterflies and dragonflies. Our expert staff and volunteers head out around different areas of the West Kent countryside to identify and record all the different types of mammal or invertebrate they spot throughout the day, meticulously recorded and tracked.

These surveys are not only for our own information, but are sent out into regional and national programmes as well, allowing species to be tracked up and down the country, informing conservation efforts and helping spot any changes in patterns.

Safety work also needs to be regularly carried out on trees that may causes problems for our visitors if left alone, so annual tree safety inspections take place as well as any remedial work that is spotted and found necessary.