Nursery Wood is 1.1 hectares in size. It was planted in 2008, next to my tree nursery that grows native trees and shrubs, to demonstrate best practice in the establishment of multi purpose broadleaved woodland.
The objectives of management are:
1) To develop a new woodland with all the diverse ecological functions of natural woodland.
2) To create a woodland that is resilient to pests, diseases and future climate change.
3) To produce valuable hardwood timber. Not just basic commodities such as firewood or woodchip.
4) To maximise biodiversity.
5) To create a woodland for quiet enjoyment by ourselves and local people.
6) To demonstrate innovative woodland planting and management techniques.
7) To provide a source of tree and shrub seed for our adjacent tree nursery.
These are just some of the things we have done to realise these objectives:
1) Planted a wide range (over 30 species) of trees and shrubs in an intimate mixture including pioneer, canopy, and understorey trees. We have started with a diversity of suitable species and aim to develop a diversity of woodland habitats. Woodland edge shrubs have been planted for a succession of nectar producing flowers from February through to July, followed by a succession of fruits and nuts from July to December.
2) We accept that over the years Nursery Wood will be subject to many pests and diseases. Some species of tree may even be lost altogether but the woodland will always remain. Ash trees in the wood were infected with Chalara in 2014. Because ash was not planted in groups and comprised only 15% of the woodland, we have been able to control the disease by pruning to a single leader up to 2 metres. We now have healthy, vigorous ash trees.
Similarly, Smooth-leaved and Wych Elm grown from seed collected from healthy local trees have been planted in the wood. Their parents have shown resistance to Dutch Elm Disease over the past 50 years and we expect the offspring to have inherited that resistance. They are thriving in Nursery Wood.
3) Pedunculate and Sessile Oak are planted throughout the wood. After canopy closure the very best stems will be high pruned and halo thinned to produce top quality oak timber. But I am not prepared to wait more than 100 years before I get a return from timber. Scattered through the wood are good specimens of minor species such as Wild Service, Wild Pear, Hornbeam, Field Maple, Wild Cherry and Crab Apple. We have already started pruning these trees to maintain a straight trunk. We believe that, with good silviculture and careful marketing, these will be the most valuable timber trees in 50 years time.
4) Objective 1 leads naturally to the fulfilment of objective 4. Management will aim to maintain the diversity of species and develop a diversity of woodland habitats. Introduction of a woodland flora has begun with the spreading of wild sourced bluebell seed in some shady areas. We will continue to introduce appropriate woodland and woodland edge flora collected by ourselves from local native sources. We have also brought large logs from windblown hedgerow trees to Nursery Wood to kick-start the important dead wood habitat.
5) Objective 5 has already been reached in less than 10 years – a quick return on an investment by woodland standards! The wood is regularly used by family and local people, many of whom have told me how much they enjoy it.
6) Nursery Wood was planted using the spiral planting pattern pioneered by Aveland Trees. There is a clear evolution from the straight lines of traditional woodland planting, through the curved parallel lines of later broadleaved woodland plantings to the logical conclusion of the spiral pattern. Canopy trees are thinned by girdling. This operation is quicker, cheaper and safer than thinning by felling.
The two outer rows of shrubs at Nursery Wood were planted as groups of 2 or 3 of each species, but for the rest of the wood the species were intimately mixed at planting with no single species groups or blocks. This ensured that pioneer species provided shelter over the entire wood and that canopy trees were surrounded by understorey trees that would keep their stems shaded.
Mixed planting has kept open all the options for future management of Nursery Wood. Pests and diseases have less chance of gaining a foothold and the management of timber trees can be directed towards emerging markets.