Kingscote Forest Plan
Acquired by Forestry England in 2019, Kingscote is a beech dominated woodland of just over 60 hectares, in a sheltered valley near Nailsworth, Gloucestershire. It lies within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is predominantly deciduous ancient woodland of almost entirely native species in a wider rural landscape of hills and valleys, with scattered patches of similar woodland.
60% of the site under Forestry England’s ownership is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) currently recorded in ‘favourable condition’. The rich ground flora supports an abundance of butterflies and moths, while the numerous old and veteran trees provide habitat for other invertebrates, bats and birds.
There are several public rights of way crossing the site, including a bridleway running the length of the wood. Under Forestry England ownership, all of Kingscote is designated as open access.
The stream running through the centre of the wood is fed by numerous springs which emerge from the underlying limestone on the surrounding hillsides. Many of these are dry for parts of the year, flowing only after heavy rain. Some of the streams host ‘leaky dams’ – natural flood management structures, positioned to slow the flow of the stream water after heavy rain, causing it to spill over into the woodland. As well as helping to prevent the water from continuing downstream to flood towns and villages, this overflow creates valuable wet woodland habitat in Kingscote. Other important water features in Kingscote are the tufa steps – which provide a habitat for a particular assemblage of plants and invertebrates.
Kingscote is dominated by beech (54% of species cover) and ash (23%), while other species found in the wood illustrate some of the management decisions made by the woodland owners during the past century. Although the woodland is almost entirely broadleaf, there are scattered conifers, including larch, Norway spruce (the valley bottom was once a Christmas tree nursery), Douglas fir and western red cedar, which were planted by the Workman family, who owned the wood for most of the 20th century. More recent planting has included cherry, alder, walnut and oak, and other minor components include elm, wych elm, willow and crab apple.
In terms of age structure, there has been planting in most decades of the past 100 years, but many of the individual stands are quite even-aged, which together with the dominance of beech, creates quite monocultural conditions in places.
The aims of management at Kingscote include:
Sustainability - we will practice exemplary forest management in Kingscote Wood – endorsed by our continued certification under the UK Woodland Assurance Standard.
Resilience - we will encourage the gradual diversification of species and age structure, in order to ensure that Kingscote thrives in the face of pests, diseases and climate change.
Biodiversity - the rich ecological environment of both the SSSI and the rest of the wood will be nurtured, and the diversity of habitats and species increased through management, including coppicing and provision of temporary / permanent open space, and standing and fallen deadwood.
Productivity - Kingscote is a working wood – we will continue with small-scale timber production, and work with nurseries to make best possible use of the registered seed stands.
Water - careful management of Kingscote’s streams and springs provides constantly changing habitat and conditions, and the ‘leaky dams’ offer natural flood management, benefiting residents of nearby towns.
Community - Kingscote is valued and enjoyed for low impact recreational activity by the local community and other users including walkers and horse riders.
What we’ll do
Having acquired Kingscote so recently, this ten year plan period will be the time when we really get to know the wood and its species and opportunities. Our plans are flexible - we will need to adapt over time, for example if we find important species that require particular management, habitats or food plants.
Kingscote is ecologically important, but has produced fine quality timber for decades so management needs to balance biodiversity and productivity. Some areas will be managed under ‘minimum intervention’ which benefits species that do well under low levels of disturbance, but others may be coppiced or cleared regularly to create mosaics of open space and woodland of varied age and structure. Productive areas will be divided into thinning coupes and a long-term contract established, so that Kingscote is worked by an experienced contractor who will develop a relationship with Forestry England and with Kingscote – together we can make ongoing reactive decisions about management.
Two-thirds of the woodland is designated as a SSSI for its W12 and W8 woodland, and the rest of the site is not noticeably different from the designated area, meaning that the management decisions made for the SSSI are appropriate across the whole of Kingscote. This is reflected in the management objectives and actions in the plan, which apply across both the designated and undesignated area.