Forestry operations at Savernake Forest

Forestry operations at Savernake Forest

Updated 25th August 2023

Savernake Forest is a working woodland, leased and managed by Forestry England. We are working here between 29 August and 3 October 2023. This page provides more information about the work we're doing.

What is happening?

We are removing a number of ash trees growing along the A346 at the edge of the forest. These trees are showing more than 50% crown dieback caused by chalara ash dieback, which makes them potentially unsafe due to the risk of dropping limbs or falling entirely. All ash trees showing 50% or more crown dieback within a tree length of the public highway will be felled or otherwise made safe e.g. pollarded. Some trees with advanced decay will be felled and left on the ground to support Savernake’s important dead wood habitat.

At the same time, we are removing some additional trees because they are growing close to veteran trees. This ‘haloing’ gives the veterans more light and space to remain healthy. The understorey of smaller trees and shrubs within five metres of the road will be coppiced to improve visibility along the road.

Photo shows someone holding two ash leaves. The one of the left has seven green leaflets that form the overall leaf. The one on the right is a similar form leaf but is brown and wilted, which is a clear indication of ash dieback disease.

Can I still visit Savernake Forest?

The most important thing for Forestry England is to keep the public, our staff, and contractors safe. The forest is fully open for you to visit but, while we are working along the A346 between Postern Hill and Leigh Hill, there are likely to be traffic delays accessing Postern Hill car park. We advise allowing some extra time for your journey.

While the forest remains open, we might need to close or divert walking routes to allow us to work nearby. We will share information about this with as much notice as possible via clear signage, website updates, and Facebook posts. Please follow all signs, diversions, and closures at all times. These are for your safety, whether or not you can see or hear us working. This will help us to finish working as quickly as possible. Forestry work is very hazardous. A falling tree can weigh several tonnes and hit the ground at nearly 60mph.

What about the wildlife?

Well managed forests support more wildlife, and controlling the spread of pests and diseases is an important part of sustainable forest management. Before we start any forestry work, we carry out thorough ecological surveys to check for species such as birds, mammals, rodents, invertebrates, flora, and fungi. We consider our findings against complex factors including tree health, how the ground slopes, soil condition, and likely rainfall when planning forestry work.

Felling these trees within bird nesting season is unavoidable in order to address the safety issue posed by chalara ash dieback next to the highway. Our ecologist has thoroughly surveyed the working area and will continue to be in close contact with the site team to minimise disturbance to wildlife. The challenges of timing forestry operations is explained in this article.

We have carefully surveyed the trees to be removed and the area surrounding them. Where it is safe, we will leave some standing dead trees to provide insect habitat and perches for birds, and we will leave as much dead wood on site as possible to support Savernake’s important dead wood habitat. Our forestry team will keep all machinery at least five metres away from all veteran trees. While working, we continue to check for wildlife and adapt, pause or suspend work if necessary.

Where can I find out more?

You can read our land management plan for Savernake Forest online. If you have any questions about our work in the Forest, please email us.