Ravensworth Forest Plan
Ravensworth is within the Hamsterley Beat of North England Forest District. The forest occupies an area of approximately 140ha made up of three forest blocks abutting the west side of the Gateshead Newcastle A1 bypass and is the largest mature area of forest in the Great North Community Forest. The forest came into Forestry Commission ownership in 1953 when a 999 year leasehold interest was purchased for forestry purposes, with sporting rights retained by the freeholder. The main block amounts to 120.4ha with two smaller outlying blocks of woodland, Robins Wood 9ha and Shanks Wood 9ha, to the east.
The majority of the crops date from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s having undergone significant harvesting during or shortly after the Second World War. As was common with post war restocking the site was mainly restocked with coniferous species in order to increase its timber productivity, and even-aged stands of conifer remain though remnant elements of the native broadleaf cover are still present. Intermittent thinning has taken place over the years and the woods are generally composed of a mix of both native and non-native species.
All the woodlands, except for Robin’s Wood are either Plantations on Ancient Woodland Site (PAW’s) or Ancient Semi Natural Woodland (ASNW). The ancient woodland status of the forest dictates that there is a presumption for conversion to native species in line with current Forestry Commission Policy. Management towards this objective has been ongoing through thinning and felling of non-native tree species since 1996 and through the period of the previous plan.
Ravensworth is located within a landscape typical of a pastoral estate and despite its close proximity to urban Gateshead the area retains a much more rural aspect than the adjoining urban landscape. External views of the forest are an important consideration to local residents, acting as a buffer between this external urban and internal rural landscape. The historic interest of the wider Ravensworth estate is significant, though most of the features of interest are outside the area of FC leasehold woodland. Outside the FC leased area are the ruins of a 14th century castle and South Lodge which are Scheduled Ancient Monuments. Additionally are the remains of a 19th century estate house and part derelict remains of an old stable block, both Grade II listed. However, part of the formal grounds to the house extends onto the leasehold area of the forest which includes a number of features of historic interest. These relate to features of the parkland associated with the now ruined Ravensworth Hall and consist of a number of specimen/old trees, old carriageways and rides/paths and quarries as well as some infrastructure remnants including the original Ha-ha and estate gas house. Within the area of the forest previously occupied by the formal garden exotic trees also represent an important part of the historic environment at Ravensworth, planted in the 19th century specifically because of their exotic qualities.
Due to restrictions in the lease there is no public access into or within the forest. One public footpath brushes the North West corner of the forest but there is no other formal public access on to the estate.
The objectives of management here are:
•Felling proposals are relatively simple based on the continued thinning of the forest under a continuous cover regime. Interventions will involve thinning out/removal of the conifer and non-native broadleaf component with the aim to thin the main area of Ravensworth wood within the next 5 years.
•2.5ha of Western Hemlock will be clear felled.
•ASNW restoration is the primary objective of management and timing and yield of operations will be guided by how the woodland is responding to change and not be driven by productivity.
•Historic Environment - Over the next five years, up until the 5 year review of the plan, we will seek to identify and map ‘exotic’ non-natives throughout the wood concentrating effort initially within the original area of historic park and garden that is within land managed by FE. We can then begin to build a better understanding of the wider historic environment and incorporate into future revisions of the plan.
•Improve the external attractiveness of the woodland through restructuring and choice of species and silvicultural systems.
•Due to restrictions in the lease there is no public access into or within the forest.
What we'll do
The proposals in this plan continue to build on the success of previous plans to support the management of Ravensworth with continued thinning under a Continuous Cover Management regime, gradually restoring the woodland to native species whilst continuing to provide timber to markets across the region. The retention of groups or individual exotic trees of historical landscape significance will ensure that any potential future heritage restoration projects of a collaborative nature can be incorporated into future plans. Public access to Ravensworth, although currently unattainable will remain an aspirational objective should the situation change in the future.
The current plan outlines management proposals with felling licence approval for operations up until 2027.
For further information regarding species composition and the future management of Ravensworth, please refer to the full plan below.