Philipshill Wood PAWS restoration – one year on!
Philipshill Wood, on the boundary of Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire, is fairly representative of our woodland estate in the Chilterns: a small-ish site with many constraints for planning a harvesting operation. It’s a PAWS site – Plantations on Ancient Woodland Site – which means some of the semi-natural woodland has been replaced with a plantation. We’ve been continuing our PAWS restoration with the aim of diversifying tree species, making the woodland more resilient long-term. The thinning operation increases light levels to self-set seedlings and younger trees beneath the current plantation canopy, encouraging their survival, providing a more varied structure and richer habitat. Other benefits include local FSC certified timber supplied to local outlets, overnight anti-social behaviour and associated litter has virtually ceased, and engagement with neighbours / volunteers / visitors has increased dramatically and has been received positively.
We have recently carried out the second phase of ancient woodland restoration thinning in approx. 3 hectares. The compartment is a beech-larch mixture plantation dating from 1970 with occasional other species present. We selectively thinned the larch and some beech, retaining and giving space to any self-set or occasional species such as oak, a process which has diversified the stand structure and allowed much more light to penetrate the ground layer.
Volunteers were crucial in informing local residents, erecting safety signage and supporting us in ensuring the highest level of public safety during the felling operation. We use continuous cover forestry principles to manage the stand for biodiversity and high quality timber outputs. Our Woodland Working at Philipshill has also been provided with ‘Field Studies Council Ancient Woodland Indicator plant identification guides’ which they will use to survey the ground flora for ancient woodland plants during the spring. Finally, the volunteers have created small survey plots out of dead hedging to assess the impact of deer grazing after the thinning. A busy and worthwhile range of activities!
Set in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Philipshill Wood is less than an hour’s travel time from central London and is well worth a visit for some tranquillity amongst the ancient woodland. We can’t thank our volunteers enough for the diverse way in which they impact on our work. We are truly not worthy!
Thank you to Assistant Site Manager, Sam Manning, and Engagement and Communications Officer, Grace Davis, for this wonderful article too.