Nightingale Wood and Overscourt Wood Forest Plan
The land at Nightingale was purchased in the early 1990s along with the land at Overscourt Wood in the late 1990s and were both planted on former farmland for the benefit of local communities. Nightingale Wood lies just east of Swindon in Wilshire covering 51.4 hectares and is part of the Great Western Community Forest. Lying to the east of Bristol, Overscourt Wood covers 88.7 hectares, and is part of the Forest of Avon Community Forest.
Although both sites were planted over a relatively short time period, both woodlands enjoy large proportions of open space that are integrated into the surrounding structure of the woodland making both sites ecologically valuable; consisting of species-rich meadows, that are important for a variety of wildflowers and insects and include the local nature reserve, Brook Meadow at Nightingale, that has a sunny, southern aspect making it ideal for butterflies.
Overscourt contains almost 50% broadleaf species and approaching 20% conifer species; whilst at Nightingale Wood broadleaves account for three quarters of the trees planted, and only 9% conifer. The planting in both woodlands has been sympathetically landscaped using small discreet block plantings, that consist of either Corsican pine or mixed broadleaf. Unfortunately over the last twenty years both the Ash and Corsican Pine have become diseased, with Ash dieback significantly affecting the Ash and Red Band Needleblight the Causican Pine. This perhaps could have been mitigated at the time of planting through the use of mixtures and is something that will be introduced in the near future when some areas will be either replanted or underplanted using a more diverse range of species and will be covered in a new Forest Plan to be written in the near future that will ensure a much healthier, diverse and thriving woodland for the future of both wildlife and the community.
A small area of Ancient Semi-natural Woodland exists within Overscourt, that is complemented and enhanced by a few smaller groups and individual, older mature/veteran trees that are scattered throughout the site, with hedgerows being retained at both Overscourt and Nightingale that provide important habitat corridors for the wildlife.
With Swindon and Bristol on the doorstep of these woodlands, both sites are popular with, and well used by, the local community, with the car park at Overscourt often being overcrowded. Nightingale enjoys flatter terrain with a better developed network of rides accessible from the car park, although by comparison Overscourt is a younger woodland with only un-stoned rides and pathways that makes access less well suited to all-ability use due to its extreme muddiness in the wetter months.
The aims of management at both woodlands will be to continue to provide a valuable resource for the health and wellbeing of local communities, with wildlife and biodiversity that will continue to be enhanced through our management, with opportunities taken to enhance these features.
Trees will continue to be harvested and managed for timber on a relatively small scale, ensuring the woodlands remain healthy and provide room for them to grow in to larger stronger trees.
What we’ll do
Currently Nightingale and Overscourt each have their own dedicated Forest Plan, but despite the fact that they are 40 miles apart, they are due to be amalgamated into one Forest Plan in the near future. This will provide an opportunity to focus on Community Woodland in West England District at a much wider scale with more cohesive management.
The amalgamation of these two plans will, take into account the changing ways in which the woodlands grow and are being used and address the limited age structure of both sites through the use of thinning, small scale felling, planting and underplanting. At the same time opportunity will be taken to diversify the species composition to include a wider variety of species, reducing the dominance of Ash and Corsican Pine. This means the sites will see an increase in the variety of both native broadleaf species and conifer species being planted.
With both woodlands have been thinned in recent years, thinning will continue, if appropriate at the time, on a five year cycle for conifers and 10 year cycle for broadleaves.
Wildlife habitats will be enhanced where possible, for example by opening up parts of the streamside at Overscourt, and by considering restoration of some old ponds at Nightingale Wood.