Wessex Silvicultural Group

The Wessex Silvicultural Group is a specialist woodland study group made up of some of England's most notable forestry and environmental professionals. The group’s aim is to share knowledge and experience in the management of woodland by visiting relevant private and public woodlands across the south of England. Since it was established in 1963 the group has studied one relevant silvicultural topic each year, (sometimes over 2 or 3 years), in a series of field meetings.


Wessex Silvicultural Group is an entirely independent organization. Membership is by annual subscription, currently held at £15 for individuals. Corporate membership is available for larger organizations at an annual cost of £100.

For further information on joining the group please contact secretary Ben Lennon (benlennon@tiscali.co.uk) or Chairman Gary Kerr (gary.kerr@forestry.gsi.gov.uk).

2011 STUDY: The Silvicultural Impacts of Policy

Statutes relating to trees and woodlands date back at least as far as the fifteenth century. Over the intervening period forestry policy has constantly shifted to meet the demands and requirements of both successive monarchs, governments and, more recently, wider society. 2011 represents a year during which British forestry policy could change significantly. Such changes could significantly effect the way in which a large number of woodlands are managed into the future. Over this year the Wessex Silvicultural Group will use this opportunity to reflect on the many ways in which policy can influence silviculture and woodland management.

Each of our four visits will have a theme and these are described in the programme below.

We will aim to provide information notes and general reading to members prior to each of the meetings. The information will be available in PDF or by post from the Secretary and also posted on the WSG website.

Meeting 1. Wednesday 6th April – Lady Park Wood, Gloucestershire. Joint meeting with ICF

Theme: Non-intervention/UKWAS Natural Reserves/Ancient Woodland policy

Low intensity management, and minimum intervention now form significant parts of
both UKFS and the UKWAS standard. Lady Park Wood on the border of Wales and
England represents the longest running non-intervention woodland in the UK. It has
been closely monitored by forest scientists and has been the particular passion of
Prof. George Peterken. The original terms of the experiment were to observe natural
woodland processes over long periods of time in the absence of human intervention.
Lady Park Wood remains a valuable asset in understanding woodland dynamics and is
still regularly monitored. Last year Prof. Peterken’s transects were replicated with
some revealing conclusions. These conclusions have significant implications for current
forestry and environmental policy. The surrounding woodland is more actively
managed to provide a contrast with the non-intervention areas. Ancient woodland
restoration will be considered in relation to lessons learned from the Lady Park Wood
Hosted by the Forestry Commission.

Meeting 2. Thursday 26th May – Rushmore Estate and Cranborne Estate, Cranborne Chase.

Responding to currently policy on a private estate.

Two estates which have been actively engaging with some of the key policy issues and
government initiatives over the last 20 years. Both estates are FSC Certificated under
UKWAS and have extensive woodland and heathland SSSIs and large areas of ancient
woodland. Timber and wood production are also significant drivers of estate policy and
reducing risks in the face of disease and climate change has been a priority in
developing the silvicultural approach.
The effects on silviculture and forest management of the following will be illustrated
and discussed:
UKWAS certification standard
PAWS restoration (estate policy & the UKWAS standard)
SSSI woodland management
Restoration of heathland in and around a heathland SSSI
Wood fuel
FC WIG initiatives, including infrastructure grants
Planting of new coniferous woodland on farmland
Woodland archaeology and land use history

Meeting 3. Tuesday 5th July - Grovely Wood

Theme: Impacts of policy on private woodlands

Grovely is situated on the chalk ridge between the rivers Wylye and Nadder. It is 750
hectares, of which 500 are in hand, all on an Ancient Woodland site, but has been
under active management for several generations. The level top of the ridge (W8) has
a deep covering of clay with flints and carried crops of DF, NS, JL, WRC, SS and some
oak. The more chalky flanks (W10) carry hazel, ash and the remains of 250-year old
beech pollards.
We will be studying the effects of changing management objectives over the last 20
By kind permission of the Earl of Pembroke.

Meeting 4. Tuesday 11th October – Wareham Forest followed by AGM

Theme: Impacts of biodiversity and economic policies

Wareham Forest epitomizes the concept of multi purpose forest landscape
management. The forest is an extensive woodland covering some 1500 Ha. This
currently comprises approximately one third open space made up from lowland
heathland and mire, the remainder comprising plantations of predominantly pine
species. The block contains significant areas of SSSI, SAC and SPA habitat hosting a
number of EPS as well as being part designated NNR. The area also contains
scheduled archaeology and is in part, heavily used by the public. The current Forest
Design Plan aims to further develop open habitats so that by 2025 almost half of the
forest block will comprise heathland and mire. As management of this area moves
forward the challenges are many. The FC Open Habitat policy commits the
organisation locally to restoration of internationally important heathland habitat and
this will need to be addressed alongside the need to maintain and enhance the
landscape and public access value of the forest. In addition, species choice is
becoming limited as a consequence of Red Band Needle Blight. The visit will aim to
discuss the challenges posed as management of the area moves forward over the next
few years.

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