Highmeadow, Knockalls and Bunjups Forest Plan
The Highmeadow plan covers 1075 hectares of mixed woodland in the Wye valley west of the Forest of Dean straddling the border between England and Wales and the three counties of Monmouthshire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire.
The Wye gorge has tremendous landscape and conservation value, and thanks to the rich natural resources and geography of the area Highmeadow is steeped in social and economic history.
In 18th and 19th Century the River Wye provided good access. A weir and dock were constructed at Symonds Yat and the woodland enjoyed a thriving trade in iron ore helped by the coppice wood that fuelled the charcoal industry, remnants of which are both clearly visible through out the woodland to this day.
In the 1800s the area was enjoyed for its dramatic craggy scenery and to this day despite the sheer rock faces now being heavily cloaked in deciduous woodland, the Wye Valley and Gorge are still a favourite attraction for people who come from far and wide to enjoy the panoramic views over the Gorge and surrounding countryside that are still to this day often perceived as ‘wild’ and untouched.
With their relative inaccessibility, some areas are still ‘wild’ such Seven Sisters and other parts of the Wye Gorge that enjoy great ecological diversity, confirmed by these areas being designated as a SSSI, a SAC and contains a NNR whilst the whole of Highmeadow lies within the Wye Valley AONB.
In the 40s and 60s the need for strategic reserves of timber meant large areas of the Forest of Dean including Highmeadow were planted with conifer, but in 1985 and 2005 the value of broadleaf woodland was recognised by policy, meaning a shift away from planting conifer to one of planting broadleaf.
The 2003 Forest Plan set out to restructure the woodland with a series of carefully designed clearfells phased over a 30 year period having recognised the values of this natural and historic landscape.
More recently, recognition of threats from pests, disease and changes in climate have highlighted the need to increase woodland resilience for the future through diversifying tree species and woodland structure.
The focus of this plan will therefore be to broaden the limited range of native species, and begin to reduce reliance on Oak, Beech, Birch and Ash.
In the longer term the Woodland will have a more varied species composition.
To achieve this sympathetically, there will be less clear felling and opportunities will be taken to promote and increase the ecological and structural, diversity of the woodland.
The intended management will make more use of low impact silvicultural systems to safeguard the rich tapestry of social, cultural and economic history that both the woodland and visitor enjoys.