Jun 09 2018

Fingle fell the opposition in Devon Woodland Awards

The Woodland Trust recently scooped three awards at the Woodland Awards ceremony at the Devon County Show.


Fingle Woods won first prize in The Forest Authority Perpetual Challenge Trophy for previously unmanaged woodland that is being improved for timber quality and for the benefit of flow fauna, archaeological interest and public access.


The competition entry explained how the restoration of ancient woodland at Fingle Woods is on a unique scale, covering 335 hectares and comprising a combination of semi-natural oak and mixed woodland but dominated by timber crop plantings of Douglas fir and other conifers with a few stands of hardwoods such as beech. Fingle Woods itself is set in the steep sided gorge of the river Teign with a generally north facing aspect. The range of habitats within Fingle provides a number of fragmented broad leaved sites where a breadth of ground flora exists. Remnants of ancient woodland ground flora also survive in and around the extensive conifer plantations; primarily along ride edges and under the less dense canopies but some occasional traces of ancient woodland flora still exist in the deeper shade. The relative abundance of ancient woodland flora, as an indication of the health of woodland ecology as a whole, was surveyed and mapped prior to the commencement of restoration work.


In the image below, pole length conifer timber has been cut and winched over 80m to narrow tracks which have been cut on the contour during millennia of coppice cutting. The timber is then processed and cut to produce length by a harvester. Where feasible the existing and regenerating broadleaves are haloed during this process to create space for future growth and to begin the restoration process. (Photo P. Moody)



Highly skilled contractors using specialist equipment are needed to work such steep slopes. The image below shows William Kingwell, who works as sub-contractor to Euroforest, and specialises in working complex difficult sites and is consequently in high demand. The winch, which is fixed high on the excavator ‘boom’ with remote operation, works extremely well on the very steep slopes at Fingle and the machine provides a stable operating platform but is restricted to moving only on the forest track. (Photo P. Moody)



The Judges recognised the challenges of the steep slope of Fingle Woods and commented: “The Woodland Trust have utilised their existing resources to create a potential valuable and thriving crop where it is unlikely other owners would have had the silvicultural vision to attempt. Good management and harvesting skills have ensured a reasonable outcome considering the lack of previous silvicultural interventions.”


Hisley Wood also scooped first prize and the Dartington Vase for “commercial thinning operations [that] have been undertaken despite the constraints of access, SSSI sensitivities and the historic significance of Hisley Bridge. The Woodland Trust is to be commended on their sensitive management of this ecologically diverse site.” 


Hisley Wood comprises a mixed structure of broad leaves and conifers. Over the last two years, felling work in Hisley Wood has concentrated on the areas of larch with some felling of Douglas fir and Sitka spruce. Gradual felling of the larch in Hisley Wood is improving light levels, broad leaved regeneration and habitat value. (Photo M. Parkins)



The biodiversity constraints at Hisley have been complex and included a colony of the nationally rare barbastelle bat and two separate university researchers have been studying them over recent years. Other protected species including the otter and badger are also resident. Perhaps the trickiest was the need to protect dormouse habitats during this period and some were tagged and tracked as part of an Exeter University study into their hibernation.


The South West is known for innovation in woodland management and these awards recognise the Woodland Trust’s role as an inspiring leader within this movement.


Well done all and thanks to Kate for collecting the awards!


Article written by Rachel Harries South West Engagement and Communication Officer


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