Fourlaws Forest Plan
Located to the east of Kielder Forest, Fourlaws Forest is a relatively isolated forest block covering a total area of 423 hectares, and is owned freehold. 190 hectares are open space encompassing the Aid and Wanney Crags and the remaining open section of Aid Moss blanket bog.
The forest area was originally established in three main phases in 1957, and 1966/67 when the majority of the plantation was planted, and more recent planting from 2001 to the present date as the forest has undergone significant restructuring. The remaining original planting is pure conifer, a mixture of Sitka spruce, Lodgepole pine and Scots pine. The new planting presents a more balanced and diverse species structure in terms of the inclusion of broadleaf species and alternative conifer species.
Although there are no formal designations within the forest the main features of biological conservation interest are the blanket bog forming Aid moss, and the Aid and Wanney crags which form part of the Wanneys SNCI, designated for geological interest, but also providing nesting sites for raptor species. No other designated features are contained within the area. Though a significant area of Aid moss is currently open, it has been partially drained and afforested.
No scheduled sites of archaeological interest are present within the forest, though a Scheduled Ancient Monument, a Pre Roman Iron Aged Hill Fort on Wanney Crag borders the forest. A number of unscheduled sites are present within the forest mostly boundary features which are currently within open areas and will remain unplanted through future rotations.
Access to the forest in the North West corner was improved in 2009 as part of an initiative with the local community providing access through the farmers’ field to allow locals to access the forest without going onto the busy A68 road. An interpretation panel was designed by the community group and local children planted the broadleaves along the A68 woodland edge. A simple circular path exists with some sculptures along the route.
No other formal provision for recreation is made within the forest; however the public rights of way are regularly used, especially as a means for climbers to access Wanney crags, which are a popular rock climbing venue within Northumberland.
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:
•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.
•Developing mixed broadleaved areas could provide local woodfuel market opportunities.
•Environmental improvements will be delivered through forest restructuring achieved through felling, thinning and restocking and open space management.
•At restocking, as indicated by the indicative restocking plan, the opportunity is being taken to restock both to mitigate the straight boundaries of the earlier planting, increase the open area, and introduce a wider range of conifer and broadleaf species.
•Seek to extend Aid Moss blanket mire following harvesting of the coupe to the south, the exact boundary for restocking to be determined post felling.
•Continue with upper forest boundary realignment post harvesting to achieve better integration with adjacent moorland.
•Improve the external attractiveness of the woodland through restructuring and choice of species and silvicultural systems.
•Maintain the network of public rights of way to a good standard to facilitate public access with consideration to public access during forest operations.
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 will have been extended.
Timber production remains a priority and will continue through a clearfell/restock regime with the focus on Sitka spruce but with a much broader range of conifer species and broadleaves too. This strategy will also contribute toward climate change mitigation and long term forest resilience.
The high conservation value of Aid Moss blanket mire is safeguarded and 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 2027.
For further information regarding species composition and the future management of Fourlaws, please refer to the full plan below.