Our best approach
During the time of the Forestry Commission's drive to make woodlands more productive, especially during the 1950s, 60s and 70s, many ancient woodlands were planted up with exotic conifer species. This was very damaging as the light needed by ancient woodland species was no longer available under the dense conifer canopy.
During recent years, we have been assessing PAWS sites and helping owners and agents to sensitively restore them. The Woodland Trust has funded this work and we are immensely grateful to them.
The obvious solution
It is easy to think that wholesale clearance of the conifers is the best thing to do but this will result in massive, sudden change to the woodland conditions. The dramatic rise in light levels and exposure and decrease in humidity can severely damage the remaining ancient woodland features that need protection.
The right approach
A much better way of managing these sites is to identify the ancient woodland hotspots (hence the assessments) and to gently open these up to allow plants to flower, set seed and become more robust prior to any more major management. This approach also includes halo thinning trees that were present prior to planting with conifers, as they also constitute ancient woodland remnants. Halo thinning helps them expand their canopy and set more seed.
Our current projects
We currently have funds available to carry out PAWS assessments and highlight possible areas for restoration. This could include halo thinning, opening up rides and riparian areas controlling unwanted conifer regeneration, uneconomic respacing and thinning, and eradication of rhododendron and other invasive non-natives.