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High Weald Forest Plan

About

The plan area is made up of 20 scattered woodland blocks totalling 3,195 hectares of which many are ancient woodland sites with considerable biodiversity and heritage value. Thirteen of the woodland blocks are freehold woodlands with the majority being open access land. The other seven blocks are leasehold woodland where management objectives reflect the terms of the lease. High Weald is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the management of its landscape is undertaken with considerable care.

Bedgebury Forest Centre is the largest block of woodland in the plan area where people of all ages and abilities are encouraged to come and enjoy the outdoors. Recreation facilities include car park, toilets, showers, visitor centre, café, waymarked walking and cycle trails, horse riding tracks leading to public bridleways, adventure playground and Go Ape High wire adventure. There is also a classroom/community room used to provide educational sessions to school groups.

There are two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) within the plan area including St. Leonard’s Forest (part) and Darwell Wood (part). St Leonard’s Forest SSSI supports remnants of formerly more extensive deciduous forest on the Tunbridge Wells Sands. The gill streams support relic bryophytes that survived from the ‘Atlantic’ period some 5000 years ago. The woodland bird populations are varied including more local species of old woodlands, and the rare purple emperor butterfly is present in the woodland. Darwell Wood consists of a relatively large area of broadleaf woodland that is deeply dissected by a number of streams. The site represents the best example of hornbeam coppice with Oak standards in Sussex and supports nationally rare woodland types including base rich springline alder woodland. A range of woodland birds also breed on this site including woodcock, green woodpecker, sparrowhawk and tawny owl. We continue to work alongside Natural England and other partner organisations to maintain these valuable wildlife and geological sites in favourable condition.

Over half the forest is planted with conifer species with much of this being on planted ancient woodland sites (PAWS). Low impact silvicultural systems will be used across many of the woodlands to bring about a gradual change toward native woodland cover. Where appropriate, clear felling will be used on some sites to convert existing conifer plantations to native broadleaf species and to provide temporary open habitat.

All woodlands within the plan area contain evidence of previous occupation from pre-Roman to early medieval periods. The High Weald is renowned for its importance in the early iron industry and archaeological evidence includes sites of charcoal making and iron ore mining, ore roasting hearths, furnaces, production waste, ponds and elements of the water system used to power the bellows and hammers of forges and furnaces. Heritage features are assessed using an operational site assessment before any work is carried out to ensure protection.

Objectives

The forest plan will aim to deliver the following objectives:

1. Better places for people to live

2. An enhanced environment and biodiversity

3. A stronger contribution to the economy

4. A secure future for our woodland resources.

What we’ll do:

The High Weald plan outlines management proposals including felling and restocking for a period of 35 years, with felling licence approval for operations up until 2019.

The areas of clear felling, selective felling and restocking planned for the plan approval period are summarised below.

Clearfelling of 495ha of conifers. Selective felling of 934ha of conifers and 846ha of broadleaves. Restock (natural regeneration or planting) of 1429ha of conifers and 762ha of broadleaves.