Hartland Forest Plan

Hartland Forest Plan


The Hartland Forest Plan area is made up of a number of separate forest blocks totalling 718 hectares in Devon. The forests lie within the North Devon Biosphere. As individual forest blocks set within the distinctive elevated plateau grassland they have very high natural and landscape diversity and value.

The forests managed as part of the nation's forests stretch from Summerwell in the west, 3 miles west of Hartland village and the coast, through True and Clifford to Melbury in the east which is clustered around Powlers Piece.

The public forest here is a predominantly conifer having been planted after the First World War to address the national timber shortage. The area is known for its production of high quality Sitka spruce which makes up the vast majority of the trees here. Most of the areas have historically been managed for timber for local, national & international markets using non-thin rotation silvicultural practices due to high wind exposure.

The Plan area contains a rich cultural heritage including scheduled and unscheduled monuments. These are made up of numerous archaeological features of barrows and mounds which are free of tree cover.

The Plan area is a rich for ecology and neighbours a number Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Conservation Areas. Most notably the Culm Grasslands which contains the largest cluster of sites for marsh fritillary in the south-west.  The forests are important for a number of nationally important birds, including nightjar.

The vast majority of the Plan area is Open Access under the Countryside Rights of Way Act. The exception is an area of Melbury Hill which is de facto Open Access due to it being leased from another landowner. Recreational activity is light and informal with walkers along the public rights of ways the main users.


The core aim of the plan is to produce woodlands with increased conservation and landscape benefits whilst maintaining a viable timber output. The long term aims of management here are to continue the substantial timber production while increasing resilience to climate, pest and disease risks, and to deliver the forest for people and nature.

The social, economic and environmental objectives of management here are:

- The continued production of sustainable and marketable woodland products.

- Protect and enhance woodland and open habitats and their associated species. 

- To conserve, maintain and enhance cultural and heritage assets.

- The diversification of woodland species and structure for greater ecological and economic resilience.

- Deliver well-designed forests in keeping with the local landscape character.

- The provision and maintenance of recreation facilities.

What we'll do

The current plan outlines management proposals including felling and restocking over several decades, with felling licence approval for operations up until 2027. 

Crops in more exposed positions will continue to be managed through non-thin for conifer timber production under a clearfell and restock scheme.  Whereas more sheltered areas will be structurally diversified through thinning.

The Plan makes provision to diversify the species composition and move away from a reliance on Sitka spruce by investigating and advocating suitable alternatives delivering a resilient, climate change ready forest. Implementation and maintenance of an environmental corridor system will continue to increase diversity of habitat and internal landscaping.

The planned areas of clearfelling, restocking and permanent open space creation during the ten years to 2027 are summarised in the chart below.

Clearfelling of 123ha of conifers. Restocking/Regeneration of 103ha conifers, 7ha broadleaves and 13ha open space.

In addition to these defined operations, ongoing thinning and selective felling of both conifers and broadleaves will be carried out in the plan area at five to ten year intervals.

The species composition will also change from 87% conifer, 7% broadleaf and 6% open space in 2017 to 85% conifer, 8% broadleaf and 8% open space in 2027.