Wood Pasture Restoration Project

Volunteers at Longshaw out working in the plantation with rangers on the Wood Pasture Restoration Project

As part of an ongoing 10 year HLS agreement funded by Natural England, our ranger team at Longshaw are now in the 8th year of their Woodland Pasture Restoration Project. Read on to discover more about the project.

The Woodland Pasture Restoration Project aims to make room for the existing old and veteran trees to grow without being restricted, the vegetation on the woodland floor to regenerate and the planting of carefully selected native tree species. Our ranger team are working hard to create a woodland habitat that is diverse, encourages a wide range of wildlife and is better equipped to tackle the effects of climate change.   

There are three main themes to the work :-

  1. the restoration of wood pasture on the area of the old Sheffield Plantation, this is the wide flatter area of the Estate, to the South of Longshaw Lodge.
  2. enclosing a big area of woodland below Bolehill Quarry, Oxhay Wood and Bolehill Wood, to keep livestock out which will allow the woodland to regenerate naturally.
  3. work in the wider woodlands, Froggatt, Haywood, Rough Wood etc, aimed at improving habitat for woodland birds.
The Tuesday volunteers building tree guards for new trees planted in the pasture
The Tuesday volunteers building tree guards for new trees planted in the pasture
The Tuesday volunteers building tree guards for new trees planted in the pasture

The history of the Sheffield Plantation

The Sheffield Plantation has an usual history, there is evidence of people living there from the Anglo Saxon/Norman times and possibly as early as the Bronze age; therefore the work happening has also been planned carefully to help protect the archaeological nature of the site. The area was purchased in the early 1800s by a group of businessmen that planted conifer trees as part of a commercial venture. Eventually in 1856 the neighbouring Duke of Rutland purchased what was left of the plantation from them, adding this land to his growing shooting estate at Longshaw. Around the edges of the plantation, nearby to the Lodge, the Duke carried out landscaping, by building Ha Ha walls and planting Beech trees. From the 1940s to the mid-1990s, the National Trust then planted more trees such as Scots Pine, Beech, Larch and Oak, usually in fairly dense fenced out smaller plantations. Some of this planting was a reaction to gales in the 1940s and 1960s which blew a lot of the conifers down.

So today there are many landscape layers, the most important of which is the wood pasture that now exists over much of the site (and has probably existed in some form or another since the medieval period), containing old and veteran trees, that before the conifer planting, had grown up in more of an open landscape.

The project so far

The plan for the Sheffield Plantation, and in particular the smaller plantations, has been to thin out the areas of conifers that have dominated the areas, this is turn will allow the ground vegetation to regenerate, allow the old and veteran trees to have room to grow and free up space for native species that have grown well such as Oak, Rowan and Holly. The work began in 2015, giving the trees left time to adjust and become sturdier. The ranger team are now removing the last of the conifers and thinning some more broadleaves, to give the best wood pasture trees that are left, room to grow for the next 200 years. Eventually this will produce areas of “closed wood pasture” where the tree canopy is almost total. This will then be mixed with new trees planted individually across the whole area, with some fenced areas remaining as a sanctuary for birds like the Woodcock.

Planting native tree species that are better adapted to the environment at Longshaw
Planting native tree species that are better adapted to the environment at Longshaw
Planting native tree species that are better adapted to the environment at Longshaw

The end result will be like the best parts of the estate today where in which you will see wood pasture with open grown trees full of character, young trees growing to replace them, decaying wood on the ground – good for fungi and insects, low levels of grazing by livestock and insects like wood ants and bird species like woodpeckers moving in-between.

The microscopic world of ants on the woodland floor
The microscopic world of ants on the woodland floor
The microscopic world of ants on the woodland floor