Forestry operations at Beechenhurst

Updated 10th August 2021

We will be timber harvesting near Beechenhurst from June 2021. 

The works will impact some of our trails and access points, this page provides more information about the work we are doing and why.

What is happening?

We will be thinning both conifer and broadleaves, to give the strongest and healthiest trees more space to grow, and to allow more light to the woodland floor. We will clearfell two areas of diseased Corsican Pine, which will be replaced with other species to improve the resilience of this part of the forest. We will also be removing some Larch which has become infected with Phytophthora ramorum. Finally, there will be some coppicing of Sweet Chestnut trees which have been severely damaged by squirrels. This means it will be cut back, to allow it to grow back with much better form.

The timber produced by this operation will go into the construction industry, fencing, wood panel manufacture for furniture and firewood. Some crown wood will be left on site as wildlife habitat, known as ‘dead wood.’

When we take the wood away from the site we will do our best to use existing routes to minimise the damage to the forest floor, which is inevitable due to the size of the machinery that must be used. Damage to these routes will be repaired where necessary when the work is completed.

Harvesting contracts can take some time and work may have to be paused due to the many constraints that we have to work around. Please bear with us as we carry out this work. We will try to do so with minimal inconvenience to our visitors.

Will you be replanting?

In the areas where diseased Corsican Pine is clearfelled, we will replant a mixture of species in 2022-23, such as Scots Pine, Tulip Trees and Wild Service Trees, which are all known to grow well in this area. Tulip Trees and Wild Service are also relatively rare here and will add some important diversification to this area.

Find out more about our replanting programme at Beechenhurst.

In areas which are being thinned we do not have plans to replant. By removing some trees we give those that remain more space and light to carry on growing. Eventually we might harvest the mature trees. This is all part of the forest lifecycle and it helps us develop robust, healthy and diverse forest areas.

Can I still visit this woodland?

Yes - the woodland will remain open throughout our harvesting operations, but the most important thing for us is to keep the public, our staff, and contractors safe. We will have safety and operational signage displayed, diversions, closures, and banks persons in position where needed. This work will affect some of the waymarked trails around Beechenhurst, including a section of the Family Cycle Trail. Diversions and temporary closures will be in place while operators are working near to the track, however we will do our best to reopen them as soon as it is safe to do so. This is for the safety of forest users and workers, so please take note of all signage and be prepared to turn around if asked to do so.

Forestry work is very hazardous. A falling tree can weigh several tonnes and hit the ground at nearly 60mph. If a harvesting machine chainsaw snaps, it can fly through the forest like a bullet.

See areas of the Family Cycle Trail likely to be affected - Family Cycle Trail map

See areas of Beechenhurst Walking Trails likely to be affected - Walking Trails Map

See full map of planned operations at Beechenhurst - Beechenhurst operations map

Please note: The Gruffalo Trail is partially closed.

What about the wildlife?

Well managed forests are able to support more wildlife, and harvesting trees is an important part of a sustainable forest lifecycle. Before we start any forestry work, we carry out ecological surveys to check for species such as birds, mammals, rodents, invertebrates, native plants such as bluebells and fungi. We also consider these against complex factors including tree health, ground conditions and likely rainfall when planning work that will support our long-term management plan. While working, we continue to check for wildlife and will adapt, pause or suspend work if we find any animal that must be protected.

Why is this work being completed in spring/summer months?

In order to support the rural economy, we must continue to work throughout the year. It is important for us to balance competing objectives in order to keep contractors employed for the greater good of the woodland as a whole. We also cannot physically complete our programme of work outside of the nesting season. The small part of the forest that is worked through the nesting season are in areas of lower risk, which then leaves the vast majority of the forest undisturbed for wildlife. Parts of this woodland are also known to be soft and the ground becomes too wet for the machinery to operate during the winter months.

If you would like any further information, please get in touch via westengland@forestryengland.uk