Claife Forest Plan

About

Claife Forest occupies an area of 198 hectares on the prominent plateau of Claife Heights between Lake Windermere and Esthwaite Water. It lies entirely within the Lake District National Park. The majority of the land was purchased in 1962 with the remaining 33 hectares at the north western end leased from the National Trust. The neighbouring land is a mixture of coniferous and broadleaf woodland, and wood pasture in private ownership.

There is a long history of tree planting at Claife, with European larch being planted as early as 1778, with the progeny of these trees scattered across the area. Planting of larch and spruce by the Forestry Commission commenced in the 1960’s, and phased felling of these coupes started in the 1980’s. The forest has undergone significant restructuring since then up to the present date as felling of first rotation crops has progressed. This restructuring process has been accelerated in recent years due to unplanned early felling of infected larch to comply with Statutory Plant Health requirements. The present species mixture composes 84% conifer and 16% broadleaved.

Claife Tarns and Mires Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) occupy part of the Forestry Commission landholding. Additionally there is a small area of ancient semi natural woodland on the south east boundary of the forest.

There are no Scheduled Ancient Monuments. A number of historical features are present including an old derelict hog house near Long Moss on the Parish boundary, which is protected during forest operations.

Recreation use in Claife is quiet and informal, closely linked with the use on adjacent land, mainly that in National Trust ownership. It is popular with walkers passing through from the surrounding area on the network of public footpaths and bridleways. There are no formal facilities provided but there is freedom of access on foot and cycle over the forest road system.

Objectives

Our aim is to create a more diverse and resilient woodland, with a greater range of species and habitats. The objectives of management here are:

Economic

  • Maximise the value of sustainable timber production by felling and restocking with productive mixtures and species best suited to the soils, and by thinning windfirm stands.
  • Although Sitka spruce remains the principle commercial species for restocking wider species diversification will be introduced to improve resilience of the forest.
  • Continued thinning of areas managed under continuous cover systems.

Environmental

  • Continued restructuring of the forest through felling and restocking with a variety of conifer and broadleaved species.
  • Establish areas of non-productive widely spaced woodland to mitigate impacts of coupe felling system on the skyline (indicated on the Future Species map).
  • Seek to extend mire habitats following harvesting of the coupe to the south (High Blind Howe), the exact boundary for restocking to be determined post felling.
  • Long Term Retention of remaining original larch plantations to enhance structural diversity and local landscape character.

Social

  • Maintain public rights of way to a good standard to facilitate public access.

What we’ll do

The proposals in this plan will lead to a more diverse and resilient woodland, with a greater range of species and habitats. Substantial areas of alternative conifer species will have been established, and the range of broadleaved species and open habitat will have been maintained or extended as appropriate.

Timber production remains a priority and will continue through a clearfell/restock regime with the focus on Sitka spruce but also incorporating a much broader range of conifer species and broadleaves. Thinning of crops will continue and future decisions made regarding possible conversion of some crops to lower impact silvicultural systems such as Continuous cover forestry. This strategy will also contribute toward climate change mitigation and long term forest resilience.

Public use of the forest will continue to be made available with ongoing maintenance of permissive and public routes as appropriate.

The current plan outlines management proposals including felling and restocking over several decades, with felling licence approval for operations up until 2028.

For further information regarding species composition and the future management of Claife, please refer to the full plan below.