Winter woodland maintenance

Woodland in the Chilterns

This autumn and winter, we're working towards achieving the historic woodland design of the Bowes family in West Wood.

From Thursday 2 November, West Woods will be closed every Monday to Friday for roughly four to five weeks, and re-opened at weekends.

During this time, the Forestry Commission will be carrying out some winter maintenance and clearing some trees from the woodland.

Originally planted in the 1950s when the Forestry Commission took out a long term lease on the land at Gibside, the trees were planted as a timber crop and are now at the right age to be harvested.

Why do you need to cut down the trees?

As a conservation chairty one of our main aims is to encourage wildlife and nature to flourish at Gibside. 

So while we're continuing to manage the Gibside woodlands for the enjoyment of visitors as planned by George Bowes, the main emphasis is to move from timber production to benefits for wildlife. 

By replacing the conifer plantations with native broadleaf trees we can provide better feeding and sheltering habitats for native species of birds, invertebrates and mammals. Opening up glades and clearings also encourages more biodiversity in the woodland. 

How will this be done?

Working in partnership with the Forestry Commission, the aim is to leave continuous woodland cover over the estate, so every four or five years some more trees are thinned out of the plantations. Where there are compartments of Western Hemlock, the trees are clear felled. These areas are either replanted or left to regenerate naturally.

In 20 years time, when the Forestry Commission fell their last trees, the trees planted at the beginning of the programme in 2006 will be well-established.

Please remember:

This means that some of the areas and paths in West Wood will be closed. This is for your own safety, please follow all safety signs and stay out of the work area.

There may also be timber wagons driving along the forest tracks to remove the felled timber. They will follow the estate speed limit however, please be aware that there may be traffic travelling along the tracks.