Harwood Forest Plan

About

Harwood Forest is located to the Southeast of Rothbury and occupies the land from the lower slopes of Simonside hill in the north to the upland landscape in the south. The area of forest covered by this plan is 3527 ha and includes both Harwood (3513ha) and Elf Hills (14ha), 946 ha are owned freehold the remainder being leasehold.

The current species composition is mostly conifer, a mixture of spruce, pine and larch with Sitka spruce dominant reflecting the primary aim of the initial planting and subsequent early second rotation restocking to produce a timber resource. Subsequent restocking proposals have incorporated an introduction of greater species diversity and native broadleaf planting to balance the aims of a multipurpose forest.

The Simonside Hills SSSI (also notified as a SAC) borders the forest and Condition Unit 6, currently in favourable status, is within the Forestry Commission’s lease. Approximately 50% of the forest, mainly to the north and west, lies within the Northumberland National Park.

Harwood has been included in the suite of Red squirrel reserves in the North of England.

Four undesignated raised blanket mire sites are present which were partially planted as part of the first rotation. Three (Chartners, Little lough and Peterstone) are now clear of trees and are maintained as open space. The final site, which has been partially cleared, is programmed for clearance over the next ten years.

A significant number of sites of archaeological interest exist within the area of the plan, a number of which are scheduled. All the scheduled sites are well documented and covered by management plans.

Recreational provision varies through the forest from the popular rugged paths over the Simonside Hills to quieter simple walking trails through the forest. Projects such as the sustainable footpath work that has been undertaken on the top of Simonside demonstrate the important role that Harwood has in providing opportunities for the public to engage in outdoor leisure activities. A series of public rights of way run through the forest including sections of the long distant St Oswald’s Way and Sandstone Way mountain bike route. There is dedicated access on foot (under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW)) on the area of freehold ownership. Public access at Elf Hills is restricted to the public path which runs along the external north east boundary of the wood.

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

•Maintain Red Squirrel Reserve.

•Continuous Cover management at Simonside and wider age and species diversification throughout the forest.

•Through felling, thinning and/or restocking plans 1) create linkage of open habitat and broadleaved woodland particularly along riparian corridors, adjacent to historic features, public access routes and areas of raised mire and 2) continue to mitigate the landscape impact of intrusive external boundaries.

•Maintain open character of previously cleared raised mire sites and complete removal of conifer from the final site within the period of the plan.

•Maintain and continue to enhance the area of low density planting habitat along the ‘neck’ of Simonside and adjacent to the Simonside Hills SSSI through the ongoing restructuring process with a ‘long term’ objective for low density mixed planting.

•Protect Scheduled Monument’s (SM’s) and maintain/enhance open historical landscape character around known heritage features during ongoing restructuring of the forest.

•Ensure that known features of historical interest are protected and enhanced during the ongoing restructuring of the woodlands and opportunities to identify as yet unknown features are incorporated into operational planning.

Social

•Maintain existing network of public and permissive paths within the woodlands.

•Maintain provision of public access to Simonside including the crags for recreational climbing use.

What we'll do

The proposals in this plan will lead to a more diverse and resilient forest 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 extended particularly in riparian and forest edge areas and adjacent to features of historical significance.

Timber production remains a priority and will continue through a clearfell/restock regime with the focus on Sitka spruce but also with the introduction of a much broader range of conifer species and broadleaves. This strategy will contribute toward climate change mitigation and long term forest resilience. In more stable sites the area managed through continuous cover silviculture will have been expanded.

 

Public use of the forest will continue to be made available with ongoing maintenance of permissive trails, car parking 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 Harwood, please refer to the full plan below.