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Ranger Notes: Cucknells Wood

Posted: Friday 1st May 2015 by Nature Notes

Cucknell’s Wood and Seccombe’s Wood Nature Reserves are a pair of ancient woodlands owned and leased respectively by Surrey Wildlife Trust for informal public access, nature conservation and sustainable timber production.

With the well-publicised changes to our funding in the press recently, SWT is having to explore new income streams in order to maintain the current level of access and conservation work across its sites.

Part of this process involves the surveying of our woodlands to provide a database of tree species, growth form, spacing, topography and access constraints. With this information we are better informed to prepare management plans using the Forestry Commission format and thereby provide a robust case for acquiring felling consents.

The inventory also provides us with an idea of potential timber volumes if set areas are due to be thinned, felled or coppiced and therefore an indication of potential interest to contractors or timber merchants, possibly if coupled with a similar job on a nearby reserve. Please be reassured that all felling operations are being considered primarily for their benefit to wider habitat and must be sustainable for ecological, economic and social reasons.

Although our normal forestry operations such as coppicing and felling have been on hold this winter, we are trying to ensure we make the most of any produce felled in the future, so access has been the focus of the past year in Cucknell’s Wood. The pre-existing boardwalks, essentially pairs of railway sleepers laid end-to-end, are being widened, decked with our own chestnut planks and fitted with a guide rail for two reasons: for our visitors so that pushchairs, wheelchairs and those with impaired sight can negotiate the soft ground with greater ease, but also so we can use our compact forestry trailer to extract round timber from the woods for firewood and charcoal or we can use heavy horses to pull the larger sawlogs out where tractors would either sink or not fit! Why not enjoy the bluebells this spring and inspect our efforts?

Cucknell’s Wood is currently being considered as a receptor site for a field trial of a biological control for Himalayan Balsam. CABI (a not-for-profit organisation which finds solutions to environmental and agricultural problems) is hoping to release balsam infected with a rust fungus in the hope that it can spread and begin to kill of this very damaging invader.

Leo Jennings

Ranger, South Team

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