Our work at Woodchester Park
A secluded valley and a retreat from modern life, Woodchester Park is a haven of peace. Yet, while on the surface all may appear calm, behind the scenes we’re beavering away to take the park back in time. Gradually we’re restoring the park to its 19th century glory – stripping out some of the coniferous plantations that we inherited and creating a healthy patchwork of native woodland and open grassland.
Working on woodlands
In 2018 we wrote a 10-year Woodland Management Plan, which was approved by the Forestry Commission. Included in the plan was the work that was needed to return the park back to its original character.
Restoring and protecting ancient woodlands
Ancient woodlands are those that have been continuously wooded for at least the last 400 years. They are valuable habitats for many species of birds, insects, animals and plants.
Over the past 150 years many of the beech woodlands in the Cotswolds have been replanted with mixtures of trees including conifers, European larch and spruce.
We have ambitious plans to remove most of the conifers from the ancient woodland at Woodchester Park. Covering a massive 35 hectares, we'll be replacing them with native trees like beech, oak and alder.
Developing a natural woodland with an uneven age structure and a mixture of native trees will help the traditional flora and fauna in the woodlands to thrive.
Planted over 40 years ago as a crop to feed the timber industry, the non-native western red cedar trees at Woodchester Park were reaching maturity and were ready to be harvested.
Specialist contractors felled a section of the cedar trees; these works were all part of the management of the woods and completed the cycle of why they were originally planted.
The harvested cedar has been put to good use – some was used as material in the building industry, while others provided biofuel for renewable energy projects.
Replanting the woods
The removal of the cedar helps us to continue to restore the original character of the park. In their place will be thousands of native broadleaf trees like beech, oak, hazel and cherry.
Historic views have been re-opened and limestone grasslands that were lost when the cedar were planted are being returned. The grassland restoration work will also enhance the feeding grounds for the greater horseshoe bats who have made Woodchester Park their home.
Grazing is a traditional way of managing grasslands. It not only creates a range of heights in the grass sward that increase the diversity of wildflowers and insects, but it does so without the use of harmful pesticides.
You might meet the gentle herd of belted Welsh black cattle mowing the meadow grasses, and in turn flies and beetles make a beeline for steaming cow pats. Following closely after the beetles come hungry bats – it’s a fine example of nature working in harmony.
Caring for the Cotswolds grant scheme
The Cotswolds National Landscape brought a welcome boost to nature at nearby Boundary Court Farm, in the shape of a £1,750 grant from their Caring for the Cotswolds scheme. The grant was used to restore a 7.5-acre grassland bank at the farm by extending the grazing regime.
In total, there are over 70 acres of grassland at Boundary Court Farm. Previously, lack of water on the bank meant that the belties have been reluctant to graze the slopes.
Grazing is crucial as it prevents the dominance of aggressive grass species and results in a shorter grassland sward, allowing characteristic limestone grassland plants and invertebrates to thrive.
Now, this hungry herd of cows provides a dedicated conservation grazing regime that's returning once species-poor fields into areas that are rich in wildflowers. As the bank gradually supports more wildflowers, we'll be able to harvest the seed and extend our successful collection and sowing programme.
We're creating a connection between Woodchester Park and the Stroud Commons that makes it easier for animals, insects and plants to move around, by creating wildlife corridors that connect similar habitats together.
In time, we hope to bring on board special seed volunteers to help build up stocks of precious meadow seeds to share with local farmers and communities, helping bolster much needed corridors for wildlife and even more magnificent meadows.
With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.
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