Late autumn is the season for felling trees in lowland woodland. The wildlife has had the opportunity to feast on the fruits of the woodland and the sap in the trees is falling, which is prerequisite for felling large timber trees. Apart from the pressing need to tackle the diseased ash trees, we will only harvest as much timber as the woodland can produce in a year, so making the woodland a sustainable resource. The trick is to do all this before the ground gets too wet and so susceptible to damage. Given the changes in weather patterns this can present challenges (our autumns seem to be getting wetter), but hopefully get it right more often than not.

Although we make considerable efforts to identify trees of high ecological value not to be felled, some inevitably slip through the net. However, the contractors work closely with us in identifying bees nests in trees that are felled, and by working with some local bee specialists we can successfully move the colony to a new home. A small effort considering the value they have to us all.

The next major job is replanting the felled sites, the fi rst job is erecting deer fencing. Given the high numbers of deer in the area, new woodland would have no chance of getting past the fi rst year before being eaten. Not the most attractive addition to woodland, but unfortunately necessary. When the trees are big enough after around ten years, the fences will be taken down, the woodland opened up again and the wire recycled.

An often overlooked benefit of an actively managed woodland (as opposed to one where no felling ever takes place) is the variety of ever changing habitats it creates – sunny open ground, grassland, scrub, young trees, old trees, closed canopy woodland, etc. Each habitat attracting a different set of species reliant on the ongoing management cycle.

One of the main purposes of our timber harvesting is to supply our firewood business, which continues to grow strongly this year. I think for the first time ever our stores will be completely emptied by the end of the season. In light of this, I am already busy trying to secure more storage for the 21/22 winter.

Those of us who work in woodland management are very luck to be in an environment that has largely escaped the impact of Covid-19, but we appreciate that for many it been a very hard year and so let’s hope that the news of a vaccine heralds a much brighter 2021.

Winter in Boughton Estates Woodlands