Woodland restoration, by its very nature, needs to be a slow and gentle process, working respectfully to favour the wildlife while extracting quality timber. To make changes in the woods, a steady and progressive tree felling strategy allows ecosystems to adjust before the next groups of trees are thinned. As they are felled, more light can reach the plants below to restore their variety and vigour. This year some of the larch trees in the Bovey Valley’s Hisley Woods are being removed, a few at a time. They are making way for the oak, ash and elm trees, the hazel shrubs, ferns and wildflowers that will provide the perfect habitat for the bats, birds, rodents and numerous insects that will thrive in a more natural and diverse woodland.
As winter approaches, the current work programme to gradually remove some of the larch trees is moving forwards and local contractors Sam Pyne and Barry Green have been continuing with the transition in various parts of the woods. In the lower part of Hisley Wood a strip of trees has been felled and extracted from the edge of a block of larch. A healthy shrub layer has been left behind where a natural woodland structure will one day flourish.
Higher up in Hisley Wood a different felling pattern is being followed. Four large circular plots have been opened up and around 20 large stems have been felled in each patch. As the timber is extracted, the light floods in so the natural restoration can begin. Care is taken in these areas to avoid causing a shock to the wildlife, as the large trees go, time will allow the native broadleaves to mature and fill their rightful place in the canopy. As larch is one of the few deciduous conifers it doesn’t cast the same heavy shade of other evergreen timber trees and the small broadleaves wait under the branches of the larch for their turn to become the grand trees of the wood. In the meantime, there is a new view from Heaven’s Gate at the top of Lustleigh Cleave. Where the larch trees stood, a surprising scene has appeared across to Black Hill on the other side of the Bovey Valley.
Sam and Barry are extracting the fine quality timber which will find its way to many local and interesting uses. Some is being stacked in the neighbouring Pullabrook Woods where Jim White’s mobile sawmill will soon return to convert the raw material to structural timber sections which may even be put to use around the East Dartmoor Nature Reserve.
by Matt Parkins