Actively managing woodlands is essential to ensuring their long-term health and resilience. Only 13% of the UK is now classed as woodland so it’s more important than ever to ensure our woodlands are managed properly.
Tangier Wood is a 10acre semi-ancient woodland, just over the border in East Sussex about a mile south of Tunbridge Wells. Here’s a really quick run through of how we’re actively managing Tangier Wood to help enhance and protect it for the future.
Tangier wood is officially classified as…
Tangier Wood lies within a landscape historically characterised by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) as Woodland and Forestry, with forestry defined as the “science and craft of creating, managing, using, conserving and repairing forests, woodlands and associated resources for human and environmental benefits.”
Tangier Wood is known as a Plantation on an Ancient Woodland Site (PAWS). This is because in the past it was planted with Pine which is not native to the area. Pine grows very quickly and planting woodlands with Pine was common in the interwar years to help supply the country with much needed timber. Pine has subsequently become one of the dominant tree species in Tangier Wood, in places crowding out the native trees. The Forestry Commission considers PAWS as areas of high priority for woodland management and restoration.
In addition, because Tangier Wood had not been actively managed, there are now also too many trees sitting much too close together. This is known as ‘overstock’. As a result of the overstock, the trees haven’t had enough room and light to grow properly and are not as strong or healthy as they could and should be, potentially putting the long-term health and sustainability of the woodland at risk. DEFRA classifies Tangier Wood as an area designated as high priority area for spatial improvement.
Tangier Wood tree species and areas include…
Over the course of a year, we undertook a survey of Tangier Wood to understand the different species within the woodland, and to see how this might vary across the 10acres.
Following our surveys we were able to establish that Tangier Wood has about 16k trees in total with three broadly distinct areas, which we have named as PAWS, Birch Corridor and Coppice.
1. PAWS: These are areas of the woodland which are dominated by the non-native Pine. The native Birch, Rowan and particularly slow-growing Oak in these areas are being crowded out by the Pine and are struggling to grow under the dark and over-crowded canopy.
2. Birch Corridor: This is an area of the woodland where less Pine was historically planted, and which is now dominated by very quick-growing Birch. Unfortunately, there are so many Birch trees so close together that they are crowding each other out and the trees are very straggly. They are also crowding out and hindering the growth of Oak and Rowan in this area.
3. Coppice: Within the wetter, more marshy area of the woodland, there are remnants of an old Willow and Alder coppice. Coppice is an area of woodland where the trees are periodically cut back to ground level to help stimulate re-growth. Coppicing is a very old and sustainable method of harvesting wood for timber or firewood, as you can keep re-growing and taking from the same tree. This whole area has been left for so long it’s now horribly overstocked and hard just to walk through.
We also have a smattering of Larch, Sweet Chestnut and Hazel across the 10acres, as well as two seasonal streams running through.
Our plan to restore Tangier Wood
We created a 20year Sustainable Woodland Management Plan to help regenerate and enhance the native woodland tree species and habitats – and ensure its health and resilience for the future.
The Forestry Commission approved our Plan and agreed we need to deal with the problem of overstock and reduce the total amount of trees in Tangier Wood by about 25% to make it a healthy woodland again. They granted us a Felling License in 2021 to support our work.
In the immediate and medium-term we want to undertake ‘thinning’ in the PAWS and Birch Corridor areas. Thinning is the process of removing individual trees to reduce the woodland density - and by removing less healthy trress you can focus growth on the stronger remaining trees.
We plan to gradually thin the Pine in the PAWS area to create more space and light for the native broadleaf species to grow. We will retain a good percentage of Pine though as Pine is a good carbon sequester (ie. good at absorbing carbon).
We also want to gradually thin the Birch in the Birch Corridor to enable the growth of healthier trees, and to also help rebalance the age and diversify of the trees in this area so we have a good mix of young and old and a better mix of Birch, Oak and Rowan.
We plan to tackle the Coppice in small patches at a time to eventually bring it back to being a working coppice which we can sustainably source our firewood and timber from in the future.
We will also take care to protect and support the growth of other tree species dotted around Tangier Wood such as the Larch, Sweet Chestnut and Hazel, as well as protect the streams, water courses and their associated habitats.
We re-use all of the trees that we cut down within Tangier Wood, either as building materials or firewood. Nothing goes to waste!
Want to learn more about and get involved in woodland conservation? Sign up for our DofE Gold Residential
Sustainable Woodland Management and Conservation, with QNUK Level 3 Award In Emergency Outdoor First Aid (RQF) “+F”
Looking to do your Gold DofE? We’d love to have you at Tangier Wood where you can help put this plan into action. Check out the 5-day programme and course dates here.