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Whinlatter Forest Plan

About

Whinlatter Forest is situated 5km west of Keswick, accessed from the B5292 Braithwaite to Lorton road which dissects the forest along Whinlatter pass. The landholding extends to 1217 hectares which includes approximately 200 hectares of open fell and sits in a complex landscape of valleys and mountains which is centred on Whinlatter Pass and includes the peaks of Grisedale Pike and Lords Seat. The forest is entirely freehold and includes some of the very first land to be planted by the Forestry Commission in 1919. Further acquisitions were made and new planting continued until 1965. In more recent years the size of the landholding has altered following boundary changes aimed at resolving external edge landscape issues.

The species present reflect the upland terrain, Sitka spruce being the dominant species overall, in particular on the higher slopes. A variety of species is present on the lower slopes with an emphasis on larch and Douglas fir on the more stable and deeper rooting soils. The broadleaved component, which is predominantly upland oak woodland, is associated with areas of ancient semi-natural woodland. The coniferous forest is managed silviculturally through a combination of clear-fell and Continuous Cover techniques and crops typically achieve a yield within the range 12 18m³/yr producing good quality timber that is important economically to both Forest Enterprise and in contributing to the rural economy.

There are two Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) within and adjacent to Whinlatter recognising the species and habitats of European importance. These are the Lake District High Fells SAC, which includes the Buttermere Fells SSSI, for its contribution to European dry heaths; and The River Derwent & Bassenthwaite SAC, which includes the River Derwent and Tributaries, and Scawgill and Blaze Beck SSSIs, which have a variety of species and habitats associated with its ecosystem.

The forest contributes significantly to recreation and tourism within Cumbria and as England’s only true mountain forest is home to stunning views, fantastic walks, exhilarating mountain biking and adventure play. Whinlatter has become a high profile attraction that attracts visitors both locally and from further afield and the Visitor centre and its associated facilities provide a focus for visitor activity and an introduction to the forest experience. The centre is home to the Lake District Osprey Project which includes an indoor viewing area from April to September, as well as exhibition area, shop, café, bike hire, main car parking and toilet facilities. More adventurous visitors can enjoy the Go Ape high ropes course or access the wider forest using the extensive network of waymarked walks and cycle trails. Whinlatter is a popular mountain biking destination and there are two purpose built routes, the red graded ‘Altura’ and blue graded ‘Quercus’ single tracks. The forest trails provide a range of routes that can accommodate people of all ages and abilities from short multi user routes close to the centre to more challenging longer steep routes to the summits of Lords Seat, Barf and Grisedale Pike for more serious walkers. The open fell above the tree line and the spectacular view over Bassenthwaite Lake, Keswick and Derwent Water are popular features of the Whinlatter landscape that attract walkers and day visitors alike.

Objectives

Our aim is to create a more diverse and resilient woodland, with a greater range of species and habitats. The objectives of management here are:

Economic

  • Maximise the value of sustainable timber production by felling and restocking with productive mixtures and species best suited to the soils, and by thinning windfirm stands.
  • Although Sitka spruce remains the principle commercial species for restocking wider species diversification will be introduced to improve resilience of the forest.
  • Construct new section of forest road at Aitken to avoid haulage through the visitor centre.

Environmental

  • Ongoing restructuring through the felling and restocking proposals to create linkage of open, conifer and broadleaved habitat across the forest to maximise connectivity.
  • Landscape and biological enhancement; native broadleaved establishment along Whinlatter pass, felling and native broadleaved conversion at Scawgill and removal of Black Crag coupe on the Buttermere Fells SSSI in the period 2017-2021 with a commitment to remove non-native conifer regeneration where this occurs on SSSI land and continued exclusion of sheep.
  • Establishment of upper edge transitional habitat adjacent to planned or recently felled areas at Hobcarton and Graystones.
  • PAW’s restoration – fell two coupes in the period of the plan to convert to ASNW. Re-survey of ASNW is planned for 2022.
  • Continue to manage the forest with red squirrels and other protected species and habitats as a priority.

Social

  • Manage Whinlatter as a first class visitor attraction providing an offer that includes an inspiring range of facilities and opportunities that makes Whinlatter enjoyable to all.
  • Effective strategic and operational planning to ensure the forest fits well in the landscape and is resilient to accommodate change.
  • Consult and engage fully with local communities and visitors regarding any proposed developments of the forest or visitor centre.
  • Investigate the potential for Natural Flood Management opportunities in Whinlatter to benefit downstream communities such as Lorton and Braithwaite.

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 and future design that recognises the scenic beauty and cultural heritage of the area. Substantial areas of alternative conifer species will have been established, and the range of 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 will remain a major focus of our management for the future and by continuing to evolve and adapt our offer we will continue to provide a high quality experience for the enjoyment, health and well-being 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 Whinlatter, please refer to the full plan below.