Nightingale Wood and Overscourt Wood Forest Plan
Nightingale and Overscourt Woods were planted on former farmland in the late 1990s / early 2000s for the benefit of local communities. Nightingale Wood covers 51.4 hectares, just east of Swindon, Wiltshire, in the Great Western Community Forest, and Overscourt is 88.7 hectares, lying to the east of Bristol, and part of the Forest of Avon Community Forest.
Both sites have quite large proportions of open space. At Overscourt, 37% of the site area consists of species-rich meadows, important for wildflowers and insects. At Nightingale, open space makes up 17% of the site, including Brook Meadow local nature reserve, and the sunny, southern aspect makes it ideal for butterflies.
46% of Overscourt is planted with broadleaf species and 18% with conifers; Nightingale Wood is made up of 74% broadleaves, and 9% conifers. The planting in both woodlands is blocky, with each patch of woodland either conifer (mainly Corsican pine) or broadleaf (including significant proportions of diseased ash), as opposed to mixtures.
At Overscourt, there is one area (1.55 hectares) of ancient semi-natural woodland, and a few small areas of older trees; hedgerows have been retained at both sites, and provide important wildlife corridors.
Both sites are popular with, and well used by, the local community – Overscourt’s car park is often overcrowded. Nightingale is flat, with an accessible track from the car park around the site, whereas Overscourt is less suited to all-ability access 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, as well as taking opportunities to enhance the sites for wildlife and biodiversity, and producing timber on a relatively small scale.
What we’ll do
Nightingale and Overscourt have previously each had their own dedicated forest plan, but despite the fact that they are 40 miles apart, they will be amalgamated into one plan area in the future, providing an opportunity to focus on community woodlands in West England Forest District on a bigger-picture, more joined-up level, as opposed to a site-by-site basis.
We will be renewing the management plan in the coming years, taking account of the changing ways in which the woodlands grow and are used. The plan will address the limited age structure of the two sites by underplanting some of the crops, which will also diversify the species mixtures and reduce the dominance of ash and Corsican pine.
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.