Replenishing Ancient Woodland
The Duchy of Lancaster has planted over 17,500 trees across 17.6 acres at Greaves Wood on the Needwood Estate in Staffordshire replenishing parts of the ancient woodland afflicted by Ash Dieback. The new plantings include a mix of native species, including oak, beech, cherry, hazel and mixed conifers, providing a resilient and sustainable habitat which will both support the existing and encourage further growth in the biodiversity of these wooded areas.
Ash trees can be found in almost all of the Duchy’s woodlands, as well as along roadsides and as a backdrop to parkland across the rural estates. In recent years as the spread of the disease has increased across the UK, much work has been done to ensure the safety of roadways and public access areas through an annual programme of felling and replacement. Now the team is focusing on woodland settings where loss of growth increments is a significant factor in determining how we manage ash trees for a sustainable future.
At Greaves Wood, forestry operations are underway to clear 2,180 ash trees from 32 hectares of woodland, providing more than 3,300 m3 of timber to market. This requires detailed planning and preparation, as well as close cooperation with neighbours, local authorities and forestry commissions to ensure that the timber can be carefully extracted without causing damage to the remaining woodland or indigenous wildlife.
Commenting on the progress to date, Duchy Head of Rural Investment Carol Hawkey said: “Responsible and sustainable woodland management remains a key tenet of our long-term strategy for the management of the Duchy’s rural estates. Over the last 12 months we have completed the first planting phase of our habitat plan to create 25 acres of new woodland at Needwood in Staffordshire. The increasing problem of Ash Dieback means that we have to act now to fell and restock our woodlands in order to protect the natural environment and provide a lasting legacy for generations to come.”
Historically, the Duchy’s 2,976-hectare Needwood Estate was largely an area of ancient woodland with extensive stocks of wolf, wild boar and fallow deer. Today it includes a mix of arable, dairy, sheep and beef farms, as well as residential properties and commercial, sporting and miscellaneous lettings. In 2015 the Duchy entered into a ten-year woodland management plan to improve the quality of over 500 hectares of existing woodland, parts of which are open to the public. This included entering into a five- year Countryside Stewardship Higher Tier agreement with Natural England which has recently been renewed until 2026.