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Ranger Notes: Fir Tree Copse

Posted: Friday 1st May 2015 by Nature Notes

© Charlie Hoare

Fir Tree Copse is a Wealden woodland owned by Surrey Wildlife Trust and forming a unit of a much larger SSSI along with neighbouring Sidney Wood and other woodlands. The site is managed 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.

Fir Tree Copse is renowned for its importance to bats, not least the rare Bechstein’s bat. As part of the management planning we will be liaising closely with Surrey Bat Group to ensure any forestry operations do not damage individual roosts or the habitat as a whole. This is a difficult balancing act considering the site is considered “perfect for bats” as it is, but without on-going thinning and coppicing there will be no new growth of the hazel under storey and few, if any, oak seedlings coming up to gradually replace older specimens as they die, hence traditional management is a necessity!

In late 2013 the storm toppled several mature oaks in the south western part of the reserve. These oaks, in the main, were straight saw logs. We decided to use Daniel Brown, Surrey Hills Horseman to provide a low-impact method of timber extraction. Using his heavy horses he successfully pulled around 12 tonnes of timber to the site entrance, whereby a mobile sawmill then converted the oak into beams, posts and planks. These timbers will be used to build a bridge over a large gap in the canal bank which will then provide a route by which timber can be extracted over the coming decades.

Leo Jennings

Ranger, South Team

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