Thames Basin Heaths Forest Plan

About

The woods covering the Thames Basin Heath are located to the North of the M3 motorway, on the Hampshire/Berkshire county border. The woods cover 1274 hectares and forms part of the wider Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA). The woods are managed by the Forestry Commission, 536 hectares under a freehold agreement and 738 under a leasehold agreement.

The main species found in this woodland area are Corsican and Scots Pine, while birch and oak can also be found in small groupings. The majority of the forest was planted in the 1920s and 1930s, with a significant increase in replanting in the 1990s.

There are 288,000 houses located within 5km of the Thames Basin boundary providing an important natural resource for the inhabitants. The woods are a popular recreation area and are particularly used by dog walkers.

The wider Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA) is comprised of 13 Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSI). This complex of heath and woodland sites is of international importance because it supports breeding populations of nightjar, woodlark and Dartford warbler which are all protected by EU law. This site also includes 2 SSSIs not included within the wider SPA.

Objectives

The objectives of management here are to:

• Produce a forest design plan that incorporates all Forestry Commission woodlands in the Thames Basin and considers the short, medium and long term management requirements of these areas.

• Promote the sustainable utilisation of England’s woodland resource.

• Maintain the area of woodland certified against the UK Woodland Assurance Standard for sustainable forest management.

• Contribute to stopping the long-term decline in the number of woodland birds by 2020.

• Maintain SPA bird populations (nightjar, woodlark and Dartford warbler).

• Forestry Commission has statutory responsibilities.

• Provide woodlands that are attractive to local communities.

• Maintain the area of woodland with public access.

• Increase the number of day visits to woods and forests.

• Protect and conserve archaeological interest within the woodlands.

What we'll do

Approval has been granted for the operations to run from June 2018 to 2028 during which time 223 hectares of Conifer High Forest will be felled, of which 194 hectares will be replanted or allowed to naturally regenerate and the remaining 29 hectares converted into lowland heath. 226.4 hectares will be managed under a Low Impact Silvicultural System, 1.8 hectares managed by a policy of limited intervention and 206.4 hectares of open space continued to be managed.

The species composition will also change from 72% conifer, 8% broadleaf, 6% mineral area, 14% open space and 2% area cleared for heathland corridor currently to 81% conifer, 8% broadleaf, 2% mineral area and 7% open space in 20 years’ time.