Highmeadow, Knockalls and Bunjups Forest Plan
The Highmeadow forest plan covers 1075 hectares of mixed woodland in the Wye Valley, west of the Forest of Dean close to the border between England and Wales.
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 the 18th and 19th centuries, a weir and dock were constructed on the River Wye at Symonds Yat, and the woodland enjoyed a thriving trade in iron ore helped by the coppiced wood that fuelled the charcoal industry, remnants of which are still visible throughout the woodland.
In the 1800s, the area was enjoyed for its dramatic craggy scenery. Now, the sheer rock faces are cloaked in deciduous woodland, but the Wye Valley and Gorge are still a favourite attraction for visitors who come to enjoy the panoramic views over the surrounding countryside.
The whole of Highmeadow lies within the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and many parts of the Wye Gorge hold great ecological diversity, reflected in various designations, including Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Area of Conservation and National Nature Reserve.
In the mid-twentieth century, the need for strategic reserves of timber meant that large areas of the Forest of Dean including Highmeadow were planted with conifers, 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.
What we’ll do
The previous 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, the 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 leading, in the longer term, to a more varied species composition.
To achieve this sympathetically, there will be less clearfelling, 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.