Active Woodland Management At Needwood

The Duchy of Lancaster is to partner with Natural England and the Forestry Commission to protect and improve 500 hectares of woodland on its Needwood Estate in Staffordshire.

Over the next five years the Duchy will implement a woodland improvement plan approved under the national Countryside Stewardship scheme. Particular areas of focus will include the restoration of ancient woodland sites to mainly native broadleaf species, thinning of stands, deadwood management, SSSI protection, bracken control, ride management and active squirrel and deer management. The five-year agreement is part of the Duchy’s longer term woodland management plan for the next 20 years.

Commenting on the partnership agreement, Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow said: “We are delighted to be working closely with Natural England and the Forestry Commission to deliver our plans for this woodland sited within the original ancient Royal Needwood Forest. There are over 500 hectares of this historic woodland and we are keen to preserve, protect and enhance it for future generations, opening areas up to the public wherever we can.”

The original 3,500-hectare Royal Forest at Needwood was gifted to Edmund Crouchback by Henry III in 1266 and became part of the historic Duchy of Lancaster inheritance when Henry IV came to the throne in 1399. Its extensive stocks of wolf, wild boar and fallow deer made it a Royal favourite until the enclosure of common lands in the early 19th century which resulted in significant deforestation.

In recent times, the Duchy of Lancaster has taken steps to protect the remaining 500 hectares of woodland, replanting native species and mixing new planting with mature woodland.

Today, the Duchy’s 2,995-hectare Needwood estate comprises some 50 farm tenancies, 59 residential properties and 51 commercial and miscellaneous lettings. The commercial interests across the estate range from specialist equestrian centres and liveries to a biomass wood chip producer, live/work units, a private airfield and shooting and fishing licenses.