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Our woodland’s future

From John Knapp

Friday, 22 January 2010

This hard winter has resulted in a 300% rise in the sale of woodburning stoves. All our local woodlands are unmanaged. Too many trees in them, too much shade, less attractive to wildlife. Woodlands only survive long term if they have a use. Stoves need wood; could this result in some timber cutting activity and provide an income?

From Sutti N

Monday, 25 January 2010

A very interesting point, the only problem, most of Hebden is a smokeless zone. I know not many observe this.

Could they make public buildings exempt from the smokeless zone so we could all benefit from cheaper council tax due to cheaper heating for these buildings??

Then children from the schools could enjoy the great wildlife Hebden has to offer.

From Dave H

Monday, 25 January 2010

In terms of a woodlands attractiveness to wildlife, the un-managed kind often win hands down. This is mainly due to when woods are ‘managed’ that generally involves felling and removing old or rotten branches or trees. These act as both restaurant and hotel to a huge number of plants, fungi, birds, animals and invertibrates. Far too often it is removed due to health and safety concerns.

The management system at Hardcastle Crags (one of the most impressive woodland eco systems in this region) dictates that even if rotten trees are felled, they must remain within the Crags to form an ongoing part of the bio-diversity.

Obviously, some expert management helps maintain a ‘healthy’ wood, but if that is simply removing trees to feed woodburning stoves, that is simply not justifiable. The first thing that people should burn on woodburning stoves is waste timber - the sort that you see being chucked away at Eastwood tip constantly.

From John Knapp

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Many stoves are now approved for use in smokeless zones. Hardcastle Crags doesn’t leave all its logs to rot; it burns some of its own felled timber in the stove at Gibson Mill. There is also a peripatetic craftsman who utilises timber to create and sell his own products. This is adding value to a woodland and gives it a future. I don’t find an ‘impressive eco-system’ in the many areas of the Crag woodlands that are undermanaged, seriously shaded and degraded for wildlife. My worry is that the Upper Calder Valley’s problem will be added to by all the thousands of planted trees by Treesponsibility and others, that will not be thinned. Who in the future is going to coppice or pollard half or three-quarters of these planted trees to create the structure necessary for a functioning wood. It needs to be thought about. Our valley could have one of the finest treescapes, wildlife and pleasant woods in the North. But action needed to achieve this.

From John Knapp

Thursday, 28 January 2010

It is a shame that there is a successful Lancashire Woodlands Project but nothing similar this side of the border.

In Burnley, quote “It is clear from the study and ground survey that the Forest of Burnley Partnership is managing their woodlands to a very high standard. A large number of woodland owners are drawn together to create diverse and involved woodland projects. Examples of this include engaging the local community in planting and management schemes, good urban woodland management and large scale forestation”.

We have much more potential than Burnley, for attractively managed woodlands in the Calder Valley but, as usual here, nothing is happening.

From Janice S

Friday, 29 January 2010

John - I agree. I admit I’ve got a vested interest as I bought a woodburner last year (which is one of those certified for use in smokeless zones). I buy in a lot of hard and softwood for the stove and I’d much rather it originated locally. But it’s not just a matter of growing wood for burning - there might be opportunities for using wood for crafts/ manufacture. Attractive woodland walks would also draw more visitors.

Was the idea to manage the woodlands discussed at one of the HB Transition Towns meetings? I’m curious as to the legal situation regarding the woods - who owns them and how would a (presumably) voluntary group go about managing them?

From Chris Sawer

Saturday, 30 January 2010

One local woodland that is managed very successfully by a community group is Nutclough Woods. The core of the woods is owned by Calderdale MBC, and the rest by various different landowners.

The Friends of Nutclough Woods have worked extremely hard over the last few years to maintain and improve the site. I have helped Kate and the team out at several work days over the past year. I would encourage anyone interested in learning about how woodlands can be managed by a community group to come along to a future work day and give it a try. They’re usually the second Saturday of each month - see the notice board at the entrance to the woods for details.

From Rob Blake

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

I think the thing to remember when talking about our local woodlands is that they are actually very small. If you look on a map, it’s mostly just steep slopes that are wooded in this area.

Locally produced firewood is already rare in the upper valley - 7 or 8 years ago it was easy to get hold of, but now, with the proliferation of wood burners, it is not.

Thankfully people like Treesponsibility are getting out there and planting new woodland and managing what we already have. Even so, I don’t think what we have really represents an untapped energy resource. If anything, I think it should be left untouched or managed carefully for the benefit of the local wildlife, like the wonderful Friends of Nutclough Woods have been doing.

One exception might be this ‘cull’ of beech trees I keep hearing about. If the council really do intend to take out the beeches and replace them with native oaks, then there will be lots of wood to go around, at least for a year or two!

From John Knapp

Saturday, 6 February 2010

It is good to know of the ongoing management of Nutclough wood. I only mentioned wood burning stoves to give an example of uses for timber. Do not take my word that Calderdale’s woods are in dire need of management. Over 20 years ago Calderdale Council published “Forestry in Calderdale, The Way Forward” by the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology. It makes a good read and emphasises that Calderdale’s woodland is in urgent need of management and this should be the first priority for any woodland programme.

Needless to say 20 years on, apart from one or two micro examples, our woodlands have deteriorated further and the report gathers dust. According to the RSPB, woodland birds are reducing in numbers because of the excessive shade. Nationally our woodlands are shadier than at any time since the stone age. It is good to have all this treesponsibility planting but a return to planted areas done a few years ago and coppice threequarters of what is left, would stop these future woodlands from emulating our present ones.

In the Yorkshire Post today the Forestry Commission is targeting owners to bring their woods into management, possibly by working together as co-operatives. An ideal project I would have thought for our valley; the home of co-operatives. Bowsaws and spades, otherwise the sun won’t shine.

From Dave H

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Before everyone grabs their bowsaws, spades, burning torches and pitchforks and heads to the nearest woodland, can I just add a note of caution. It is not done so to prevent woodland management, but simply ask people to do their research and enter into it with knowledge in equal quatities to their undoubted enthusiasm.

There’s a woodland bird that is becoming rare on a national level as well as a local level. The wood warbler. A few years ago, it nested in 2 or 3 woodlands round Calderdale. A couple of years ago I visited one of these woodlands in the upper valley, to see that the wood warblers had returned and were pairing up to start nesting, as they had done years after year. Here is the vital piece of information: They are a ground nesting bird.

On my next visit to go and see how the warblers were getting along, how many chicks they had etc, I was greeted by the site of a dozen or so very well meaning voluteers cheerfully pulling out balsam. They had completely trampled the area that the wood warblers had settled in. They meant no harm to the local wildlife, but had not done their research nor had suffient knowledge (the call of a wood warbler is very distinctive). As an aside, balsam clearly does need controlling, in a carefully planned managed way.

The wood warblers were nowhere to be seen, and never returned that Summer.

Last year, Calderdale had no breeding wood warblers.

By all means march up there with your saws and spades if you have to, but have the courtesy to know what you’re doing.

From John Knapp

Thursday, 11 February 2010

I have sympathy with Dave H and the loss of the Wood Warblers. Of course, any woodland management would have to take account of nesting birds but since this management is normally carried out in the winter months, when wood warblers have migrated, this wouldn’t be a problem. Balsam removal is best done late summer, just before it runs to seed and nesting birds are less likely to be disturbed at this time.

From Karen Marshall

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Regarding Nutclough Woods, I was delighted when I moved into the area to have such natural beauty on my doorstep, particularly Nutclough woods as I have a dog and no garden. I considered joining the Friends of Nutclough but have been too bothered by the techniques employed. Its pathways are made from all sorts of broken objects and nearly every time I have ventured in there my poor dog has cut her paw… why like this? I no longer use the woods as I think it’s unsafe. Has Calderdale Council used this to save money?

From Keith Wilson

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

I would like to see all our woodlands managed, but there seems to be little practical knowledge of the value or methods of management.

I work for Treesponsibility, Knott Wood Coppicers and a fledgling group current calling itself Working Woodlands, and was very pleased to see John Knapp’s thread about our woodlands and there management. I would very much like to meet up with you John, and discuss your ideas in more depth.

I totally agree that Treesponsibility’s new sites would benefit massively from coppicing, and we have learned much about woodland design over the last 12 years the project has been running. One limitation to starting management is that the Forestry Commission, who granted money for many of the sites, does not allow any cutting or thinning for 10 years, so slowly sites are becoming available for management.

Regarding wildlife and biodiversity in managed woodland, the reasons why they are better is not understood by all but are simple. If each year, an area is coppiced (cut down to the ground to regrow) an area is opened up which can receive lots of light. This encourages a wider range of plant and insect species to inhabit the wood, the thickets of regrowth, which can provide useful wood resources in the future are of more value to wildlife than high canopy (although some high canopy is also valuable). A managed coppice will have the full range of freshly cut, one year regrowth, two year old regrowth, and so on up to 10 or twenty year regrowth - and also high canopy, i.e a range of habitats.

It is of interest that Knott Wood, which had had some felling to establish coppices every year for 14 years now has seen an improvement in biodiversity, as noted by Charles Flynn, for Todmorden Wildlife Group, who has conducted several surveys for the wood over the years.
Again, the Knott Wood Coppicers have been on a learning curve over that time and mistakes have been made, such as cutting coups that were far to small to begin with.

I have much to say on this topic, but will end here for now.

From John Knapp

Friday, 2 April 2010

Following Keith Wilson’s interest in coppicing, he is quite right to suggest that a sufficient area needs to be set aside for this activity in order the cut stools will regenerate. If Oak trees are the desired standard species, these benefit enormously from being well spaced out. It’s an illusion to think that a wood needs to be stuffed full of trees in order to fulfill its function.