The Forest of Dean.





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Forestry & the Forestry Commission

Management Objectives
Forestry for Rural Development

For more than 2000 years the Dean has been a working forest, with the production of timber and minerals being of national significance and sustaining local populations.

Today timber and mineral production continues at carefully regulated levels.

Species Distribution
Whilst traditionally the Dean was considered to be an oak forest, today the Forest is almost exactly balanced between broadleaf and conifer. For timber production the preferred species are Douglas fir, Corsican pine, Norway spruce and European larch with Oak, Ash, Beech and Sweet chestnut being the favoured broad leaves.

The broadleaves are managed under the guidance of the Broadleaf Management Plan which zones the Forest into a production working circle, a conservation working circle and community woods. (Working circles are areas of woodland where a particular type of management is undertaken)

There is a long history of conifers in the Dean (some of the first, Weymouth Pine planted in 1781, still stand) and because of the varied soil and the climate and topography, which reflect both upland and lowland characteristics, conifer areas are varied in species. Coupe size is generally small (averaging 3-5 hectares).

Timber production is at a sustainable level of about 45,000 cubic metres per annum, most of it is coniferous, much of which is derived from thinnings. Forest Enterprise sells trees standing to the timber merchants who harvest the trees. The use of modern technology means that fewer people are employed in this task but their working conditions are much improved.

The utilisation of timber from the Forest is now less of a local matter than in former years as only a few local sawmills remain. One local mill is accredited by the Forestry Stewardship Council, which allows sustainably sourced timber to be produced locally. The St Regis pulp mill at Sudbrook, less than twenty miles away, takes low-grade hardwood timber from the Dean and from the whole of Southern Britain. Its position so near to the Forest of Dean is no coincidence.

Plantings earlier this century did not always correctly match species to site, and the limited scale of clearfelling does allow the opportunity to redress the situation. Local design planning particularly aims to address the situations where oaks were planted on exposed ridge top sites, where they have not thrived, and also the sites which were planted with conifers, when broadleaves would have been more appropriate.

Clear felling and replanting has long been the predominant silvicultural system. There are however a number of examples of natural regeneration. These have tended to result from opportunist tending of existing regeneration, often oak and beech, rather than from stands managed to bring about this result. With the ever-present issue of sheep grazing, it is preferable to fence young crops and so a programme of management for regeneration has been introduced.

      The strategic objectives for the future:  
Increase the production of quality broadleaves for fine timber
Encourage more local utilisation of Dean timber
Review the broadleaf management plan in the light of subsequent experience


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