An overview of Cumbria’s woodlands
Of the 67,671 hectares of woodland in Cumbria, 48,565 are in private ownership and the remaining 19,106 are in public ownership, managed by the Forestry Commission. 9.9% of Cumbria's land use is woodland, which is close to the national average.
The majority of woodlands in Cumbria are conifer plantations and broadleaved woods (either planted or naturally occurring) but there are some mixed woodlands as well. A study, The National Inventory of Woodlands and Trees for Cumbria, despite being carried out 15 years ago, accurately shows a trend back towards broadleaf woodlands after an intensive period of coniferisation in the post-war era. We believe that today an estimation of the ratio between the two is about 50:50.
Sitka spruce: 50% - the main species of conifer present.
Larch sp.: 6.3% - the second largest component.
Pine sp, Douglas fir, and other exotics: 43.7% - a mixture of these comprises the remainder.
It is important to remember that the conifer woodlands have been part of the Cumbrian landscape for over 200 years. They make up some of the most popular tourist destination such as Grizedale and Whinlatter forest parks, the National Trusts Tarn Hows and Centre Parcs Oasis holiday village.
Oak: 32% - the main species present.
Beech and Sycamore - the second largest component, although considered non-native, and have been planted or naturalised.
Birch and Alder - both of these are also widespread.
Ash: 4% - also a considerable component.
Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland (ASNW)
There are 16,500* ha of ASNW woodland in Cumbria (approximately 25%).
*The 16,500 ha count does not include woods that were not classified because they were smaller than 2 ha.
These woodlands are considered the most precious of habitats. They are what remain of the original woodland that colonised after the last ice age. They are categorised as woodlands that show up on maps dating back to 1600, and so are known to have been around a very long time. They have been able to develop a rich association of flora, which is impossible to recreate in new woodlands. About a third of this ancient woodland has been replanted with exotic species.
Planted Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS)
Cumbria Woodlands has been working in conjunction with the Woodland Trust and the Forestry Commission to restore PAWS sites to try to rescue some of the remnant ASNW species that occur in these woodlands. This involves sensitively removing a percentage of the exotic species so as to allow ASNW species to thrive without the shock of sudden deforestation and the associated loss of shelter and shade and a ‘woodland microclimate’ that they may have been surviving amongst.