Forestry operations at Savernake Forest

Updated 26th October 2022

Savernake Forest is a working woodland producing sustainable timber. We will be working here for several months, starting in November 2022. This page provides more information about the work we're doing.

What is happening?

We are carrying out several planned forestry operations around the Forest.

In several areas of the forest where trees are growing densely, we will be thinning them. This means removing selected trees to give the remaining ones more space to grow to their potential. Thinning also allows more light to reach the forest floor, which improves the habitat for ground flora and the wildlife it supports.

Many of our planned work areas are classified as a Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site (PAWS) which means that we are gradually managing them back to the way they would have been several hundred years ago. Where we are thinning the trees, we will target the removal of non-native conifers to benefit the broadleaf trees and, where possible, open up more space around some of Savernake’s special veteran trees to support their health.

We will also be removing around 300 ash trees which are close to access routes around the forest and showing signs of chalara ash dieback. This is a destructive disease that causes trees to become brittle, drop branches, or fall altogether. We will be removing these trees for safety.

Throughout all this work, we will be taking steps to protect the forest’s valuable and irreplaceable soils. We are working with our contractor to preventing machine access to green rides, keep heavy machinery out of the root protection zones of veteran trees, lay brash mats to protect the ground where machinery must travel, only part-load the forwarder which moves timber around the work site, and fell trees by hand where necessary.

The timber from Savernake Forest is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) as being sustainably produced.

Can I still visit Savernake Forest?

Savernake Forest is open to visitors throughout the forestry work. We will work hard to keep disruption to a minimum but there might be times when some access will be closed so we can work safely nearby. It is essential for the safety of our visitors, staff, contractors, and volunteers that everyone follows all signs, diversions, and closures at all times, whether or not you can see or hear us working. 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.

What about the wildlife?

Harvesting trees is an important part of sustainable forest management and well managed forests support more wildlife. 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. This enables us to identify ecological constraints such as the presence of European Protected Species and Schedule 1 protected birds, which affect the time of year when certain operations can be carried out.

We consider our findings against complex factors including tree health, how the ground slopes, soil condition, and likely rainfall when planning forestry work. 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 proposed land management plan for Savernake Forest online. If you have any questions about our work in the Forest, please email us.