I spent the day with Iain Turner visiting some of the woodlands we are working with. One of these was Great Trill Farm on the Blackdowns. The farm has 14ha of woodland including a mixture of Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland and mixed plantation. After completing a Woodland Management Plan the woodlands were entered into a Higher Tier agreement in January 2023 and work is already well underway delivering the operations included in the management plan.

Iain’s role has involved mapping the environmental features within the woodlands, planning operations, helping the woodland owner ensure they are getting the best value from the harvested timber, and working with the contractor to ensure environmental considerations like the protection of features such as watercourses and valuable trees.

Timber extracted from the woodland has been graded ready for a range of markets, with timber for biomass or fibreboard (below left). On the right, Iain inspects logs for milling, while bent stems can be sold to timber frame builders and bent larch can be used by boat builders to make ribs for hulls. Raising woodland owners’ awareness of the different markets and value of timber helps to ensure that the owner can work with contractors and timber buyers to get the best from their timber, not only to help profitability but to get the right timber into the right market and make the most of the woodland resources we have.


The woodland management plan included creating coups (management blocks) within the woodland. In some areas this created open spaces for replanting or natural regeneration (for example on the left removing spruce affected by bark beetle). In other area the canopy was thinned to allow trees to mature for harvesting in the future and to encourage regeneration. One of the primary aims is to increase the age structure within the woods to move towards Continuous Cover Forestry, where species like Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar and Western Hemlock can regenerate. Additional species like Japanese Redwood will also be added to increase the diversity and resilience of the woodland.


When carrying out forestry operations, preventing pollution of watercourses is an important consideration. Brash matting (below right) has been used on areas of track vulnerable to gullying in wet conditions and operations are kept away from watercourses. The oak tree in the image on the left has lots of burrs on the trunk and is a potential future veteran tree; thinning around this tree to provide space to prevent the crown of the tree from damage will give it the space to continue to be part of the woodland for hopefully hundreds of years.


Within the Ancient Semi Natural Woodland area we were assessing the spread of Ash Dieback since the plan was originally written. In one of the main areas of ash a large beech tree had fallen.  The main consideration in this area was whether the ash should be removed and replanted, or the disease allowed to run its course. Ash trees become very unpredictable when diseased and can snap at the base when being felled, making them very dangerous to remove. This means some people prefer to fell them before they become dangerous.


However, alongside opening up rides within the woodland, too much intervention in the woodland from felling the ash could have a negative impact on the ecology of the site. The other factor to consider was the cost of interventions, although additional felling can help make it more economical to have a contractor in the woodland. On balance we felt that the spread of disease hadn’t been rapid and that the trees should be left.


The woodland hedge habitats form important foraging habitat for a range of species; during our visit fritillary butterflies were using the woodland edges, with marbled white in the species rich meadow adjacent. The small fields surrounding the woodland with mature hedges create a mosaic of habitats and provide glade features which cannot be created within small woodlands.