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Miterdale Forest Plan

About

Miterdale is situated south of Wasdale, within the Lake District National Park around 10km from the west coast of Cumbria at Ravenglass. Most of the land was acquired freehold between 1937 to 1957 with the exception of Parkgate which is leased from the Ainhouse Estate. The suite of woodlands consists of the areas of Miterdale, Miterdale Head, Irton and Parkgate. Miterdale lies on both sides of the valley of the River Mite and consists of two areas; Miterdale to the west and the more isolated Miterdale Head to the east end of the valley. Parkgate and Irton lie at the western end of one of the ridges leading down to the Wasdale Screes and both woods, whilst different in character sit well in the landscape with good connectivity to neighbouring woodland. In total the Forestry Commission owned land covered by this plan extends to 618 ha.

Sitka spruce and Japanese larch have historically been the main conifer species, both producing good quality timber for local processors on an industrial scale using modern mechanised machinery, thereby supporting the local economy. Recent planting presents a more balanced and diverse species structure in terms of the inclusion of broadleaf species and alternative conifer species. Birch is scattered throughout the woodland and alder and willow follow the network of streams.

Miterdale Head is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) managed under a plan agreed with Natural England. Previous surveys have identified valuable soligenous mire habitat important for bryophytes such as Eriophorum latifolium and odonatan including the Keeled Skimmer dragonfly. Additionally there are several areas of ancient semi natural woodland within areas of plantation on ancient woodland sites (PAW’s) in Miterdale and Parkgate.

Historical interest is concentrated in Irton which includes part of a larger scheduled ancient monument known as Mecklin Park Cairn Field (SMR no. 03709). The monument includes the remains of a Bronze Age cairnfield situated on a ridge which runs WSW towards Irton Pike. The cairnfield contains at least 30 cairns measuring between 1.5m and 5m in diameter and standing 0.5m to 1m in height. Several of the cairns are round cairns with visible kerb stones. One was excavated in 1958 and found to contain a flint knife, three flint scrapers, a barbed and tanged arrowhead, sherds of Food Vessel pottery and 125 jet beads. Further partial excavations of several other cairns indicates that the cairnfield includes both funerary cairns and prehistoric clearance cairns. The cairnfield lies within an area exploited for iron ore in the 19th century, with remains related to this mining activity extending across and beyond the boundaries of the monument. A series of post-medieval boundary walls run through the scheduled area, which are not included in the scheduling, although the ground beneath is included. The Forestry Commission manages the western 0.8ha of the monument which extends east to a total of 5.2ha.

Recreation use in Miterdale is low key, quiet and informal in keeping with its location within the Lake District National Parks “Quiet Western Fells” zone and the LCA description. It is popular with walkers passing through from the surrounding area on the network of public footpaths and bridleways but there are no formal facilities provided other than an informal car park beside the river Mite. Where we hold the freehold there is freedom of access on foot and cycle over the forest road system.

Objectives 

Economic

  • Clearfell 52ha in the period 2018- 2026 generating approx. 20,000 m³ of timber.
  • Establish economically viable commercial crops to maintain future productivity of the forest where there are no other overriding environmental, landscapes or social considerations.
  • Seek to optimise value of larch felled under SPHN through effective marketing.

Environmental

  • Continued restructuring of the forest through felling and restocking with a variety of conifer and broadleaved species.
  • Transform suitable areas of the forest into management under Continuous cover.
  • Ensure the regeneration, extension and survival of areas of ASNW.
  • Create new areas of mixed broadleaved and open woodland habitat in the previously felled area north east of Great Bank
  • Ensure the protection and survival of historic features especially the scheduled ancient monuments on Irton Pike by removing Sitka regen.

Social

  • Maintain public rights of way to a good standard to facilitate public access and maintain key open views from the forest such as at Irton Pike.
  • Continue to consult and involve the local community through attending meetings where appropriate and onsite signage.

What we'll do

The proposals in this plan will lead to a more diverse and resilient woodland, with a greater range of species and habitats. Substantial areas of alternative conifer species will have been established, and the extent and range of native broadleaved species and more diverse open habitat will have been extended particularly on the transitional boundary between forest and open fell.

Timber production of home grown quality timber remains a priority and will continue through a combination of clearfelling and continuous cover silvicultural techniques with the focus on maintaining and possibly expanding productive woodland with species best suited to site conditions including a wider range of conifers and broadleaves at the lower elevations. This strategy will also contribute toward climate change mitigation, flood alleviation and long term forest resilience.

Public recreational use of the forest is likely to remain low; however, this is in keeping with the character of the forest and locality within this part of the Lake District National Park. By continuing to manage our woodlands sustainably we will continue to provide a high quality experience for the enjoyment, health and wellbeing of all our visitors for the next 100 years.

The current plan outlines management proposals including felling and restocking over several decades, with felling licence approval for operations up until 2029.

For further information regarding species composition and the future management of Miterdale, please refer to the full plan below.