Springtime Practical tips

Foresters reckoned to have all planting done by the middle of March and that is a good rule especially for bare rooted stock although container grown plants can be planted with care all year round. This winter has washed a lot of nutrients from the soil so adding compost as general fertilizer and mulch is to be recommended.

To give special spring fillip for trees, after making sure newly planted trees are still firm in the ground and then at bud burst give them a solution of sugar 30gm to 1 litre of water. This will stimulate root growth so aid establishment and better nutrient uptake. Remember mulching is also important not only to suppress the weeds but helps to retain water in the soil.


Lowland woodlands are important to the public, not only for their recreation but for the environment and biodiversity so particularly now as there is a forestry consultation that closes on 11th September, all those concerned with wildlife, the environment or informal recreation like walking in woodlands, should engage with this consultation or at least write to their MP.

Everyone cares about the planet and many, inspired by David Attenborough, like the Chancellor Rishi Sunak who said in his very first Budget he wanted to see 30,000 hectares of trees planted to capture climate heating carbon and boost wildlife However, in global terms, this is only a well meaning but misplaced gesture because it the loss of tropical forests, those of the great taiga near the top of the Northern hemisphere and the illegal logging in parts of Europe like Romania, where 2 hectare of forest is disappearing every hour, that is a major cause of climate change.

Public money for forests could can do a lot of good locally in the country, if it is targeted to local woodlands all over Lowland Britain; firstly to meet the minimum criteria of reduction of deer numbers by at least half. The effect of deer on the ecology of woodlands is extensive. Understories are decimated and the ground flora, often denuded, which has huge effect on the habitat and so the numbers of animals, birds and insects too. This has been recorded in numerous scientific studies but is easily demonstrated visually wherever deer have been fence off. For a thriving variety of flora and fauna, the size of most lowland woodlands should be increased to at least 3 hectares (7:4 acres) . Fortunately this is also the minimum size to apply proper woodland management to produce timber too, when deer and grey squirrel numbers are reduced.

Unfortunately bureaucracy favours simple felling and restocking for grants whilst ignoring professional foresters skills to progressively optimize timber production of woodlands over a number of years towards a system called ‘Continuous Cover Forestry’ (CCF) which has tremendous benefits for wildlife and ultimately, produces greater timber increment with larger trees and overall, for less cost in the longer term. CCF does not mimic natural woodlands exactly but aims to make the best use natural processes so can (and in my opinion, should) include suitable exotic conifers to yield productive, delightful mixed woodlands to enjoy as they have for nearly a century in Switzerland. CCF is no fad. It is increasingly used in Northern Europe, particularly in response to climate change problems and The Forestry Commission has already done its own experiments to confirm these results.

The control of deer and squirrel is vital for success any forestry enterprise; hence the system of financial support needs thorough re-examination to get the best outcome. At present, a lot of up front cost is met by grants, yet often, as trees are a long term undertaking beyond one owner’s lifetime, the management falters so any expected quality timber is not produced. This wastes precious public money whilst providing inheritance tax avoidance assistance for a succession of owners. The best structure would be some sort of local group woodland ownership co-operatives or investment trusts, dedicated to ensuring continuous woodland cover management providing a continuous supply of timber and income to meet the costs and a small profit.

With 40% of English woodlands unmanaged it is likely this present forestry consultation is likely only to have input from the usual people for similar continuing results unless there is more input from the ordinary public and other groups concerned with their local environment in which woods are important.

Discussion Topic: Citizens Woodland Investment Trusts

Despite copious grants and tax incentives, the failure of the last forty years of forestry policy is that still about half of England's 765, 000 ha of broadleaved woodlands remain unmanaged. This has been detrimental to all aspects of woodlands including the flora and fauna and numbers of grey squirrel and deer continue to rise unabated. The suggestion made in the 'A Dendrologist's Handbook was the setting up 'Woodland Investment Trusts' with the declared aims to provide multipurpose woodland management in lowland Britain with investors receiving the same financial benefits as other woodland owners. It could then be seen, within the proper constraints of producing a return on capital in excess of inflation, exactly what good forestry practice can do.

A recent debate about this topic by members of a tree club identified that the high cost of woodlands was an obstacle. This is because the price is artificially inflated since, like farmland, it can be passed free of Inheritance Tax. Such special status recognizes the need for continuity of care needed for farms and particularly woodlands. This tax arrangement certainly benefits individual owners although often, does not ensure continuity of good woodland management but explains why 70% of the UK is owned by just 1% of the population. Surely this benefit should be extended to more people through special farming and forestry investment trusts? This would also provide better public understanding of both the problems and profits of such finite resources.

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