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The Woodland and Trees

Who plants the trees?

It is mostly private landowners that are responsible for tree planting. They may undertake the planting themselves or alternatively employ contractors to plant the trees. Forestry grants cover the cost of planting and ongoing maintenance. (For details of grants available, contact the National Forest Company.) Other organisations that have planted trees include the Forestry Commission, Woodland Trust, Royal Forestry Society, Leicestershire County Council, TCV with corporate sponsorship from the likes of Lloyds TSB, Alliance & Leicester, Jaguar, Rolls-Royce, Severn Trent Water also funding tree planting, 

What species of trees are planted?

The aim is to achieve a predominantly broadleaf forest. The current split of trees planted is c87% broadleaf and 13% conifer. The most commonly planted broadleaf species are English oak and ash with alder and mixed shrubs. The conifers planted are primarily Corsican and Scot’s pine.

How many trees will be planted?

The ultimate aim is that woodland will cover approximately a third of the area. In the region of 15 million trees will eventually be planted. However the number of trees changes as the woodlands are managed and the more important aim is good quality woodland, with other habitats.  Over 8 million trees have been planted so far.  Rates of planting change depending on the opportunities but at current rates, it could take about another thirty years to reach about a third woodland cover.

When will they be fully grown?

Trees grow at different rates depending on the species. Yews can grow for a thousand years whilst poplars can be grown and felled in only 20 years. It is said that an oak takes 200 years to grow, 200 years to mature and 200 years to die. Early National Forest plantings have grown well and will soon require thinning.

Why do you plant trees in straight lines?

Trees are planted in lines to enable them to be managed in the most efficient manner. They are also planted closely so that they grow straighter and taller as a result of direct competition for light to photosynthesise. After thinning operations, the lines are less obvious.  Increasingly, trees are being planted in curved lines (curvy linear rows) to 'fit' them into the landscape - this breaks up the appearance whilst allowing for easy management. More random spacing is opted for on some sites to mimic natural woodland.

How many trees will be felled?

It is necessary to fell trees as part of the management of woodlands and this is usually done in the form of thinnings. Typically, new woodlands are planted at approximately 2000-2500 trees per hectare. Once woodland reaches 20-25 years of age, thinning will remove a proportion of the trees, usually those of poorer form or smaller, suppressed individuals that have been out-competed by their neighbours.  It is common for whole rows to be removed at this stage to enable machines into the woodland. Thereafter, thinnings usually happen on a 7-10 year cycle, retaining the healthiest and better formed trees to grow on to maturity. It is expected that approximately 250-500 trees per hectare will be standing when the woodland is 70 years of age.

How will woodlands be managed in the future?

Woodlands can be managed for various objectives depending on the site and the landowner’s aspirations. These include: nature conservation, landscape, heritage, recreation or public access, along with the potential for timber production and other commercial activities. Woodfuel (both logs and chips) are important incentives for thinning and felling and the basis of sound management in the future . The National Forest Company works to develop the market for these as well as craft and niche markets for certain timbers.

Larger broadleaf timber can be used for furniture making and fencing products, but many niche markets exist for all sizes and shapes of timber. Softwood timber from conifer trees is used in the construction, fencing, fibreboard and woodchip markets. Paper and cardboard can also be produced from the felled timber.

What happens to the felled trees?

Some felled trees will be left in the woodland to provide valuable habitat for invertebrates, fungi, mosses and lichen. This is important as the biodiversity of the woodland will increase as a result.

Felled trees can be processed into utilisable products for a variety of uses. Smaller broadleaf timber can be used for wood chips in wood fuel heating systems or more generally for firewood or charcoal production.

Why do some woods have nettles, brambles, long grasses or bracken?

This is completely normal and reflects the ground vegetation often found in woodland environments. It is important that these species do not impede the growth of newly planted trees otherwise the trees can be lost due to insufficient light and competition. As such, it is often a requirement to control the development of these species in the early years of woodland establishment but once the trees are established, they are left.

Do trees help with climate change?

Trees have a role to play in the mitigation of the effects of climate change although trees themselves cannot solve all of the issues relating to it. Trees remove CO2 from the atmosphere during the process of photosynthesis and, by doing so, store the carbon in the trees. Trees can also help by cooling our urban areas through shading and by having contiguous woodland networks, allow the migration of species through the landscape.

How do you deal with deer, squirrels, diseases and other pests?

Deer, squirrels, forest diseases and other pests are generally not a problem until damage starts to occur at levels deemed unacceptable and affecting the value of the wood to the woodland owner/manager and visitor. In such circumstances and following identification, surveying and monitoring, proven control measures can be implemented to keep population levels sustainable and in balance with the woodland ecology. Incidences of Sudden Oak Death and Red Band Needle Blight at a national level are a concern, and therefore a collective approach with landowners, managers and members of the public is necessary.

What do I do if I notice a problem in a woodland?

The owner of the woodland should be the first point of contact as they are responsible for its management. Often, there are noticeboards at main entrance points into woodlands with contact details provided.