Published: 16 July 2014
The Trust have been served statutory notice by Forestry Commission to fell areas of Larch and Sweet Chestnut that have been infected by Phytophora Ramorum and others that are vulnerable to infection and could thus act as vectors for spreading the disease. This felling must be completed by the end of September this year.
For the Trust, the woods affected are Ball Copse and The Grove. According to Forestry Commission, the total area affected and required to be felled is some 30 acres. However, the actual area that will be felled is likely to be greater than this: there will inevitably be some additional clearance required to facilitate access and removal of the infected trees. The Trust will seek to minimise felling of healthy trees, where possible, but may also use the opportunity to undertake other necessary woodland management while contractors are on site.
The wood is not being ‘destroyed’. Destruction would involve replacement by development or conversion to agriculture, neither of which is the case here. The woodland will regenerate and, although it will have a different character for a number of years as the young trees grow, The Grove and Ball Copse will still remain as woodland.
Felling trees is part of the traditional woodland management cycle and, while destructive in the short-term, it is necessary and beneficial to the woodland (and wildlife) in the medium to long term. If left to nature, trees would naturally die and collapse, creating glades, allowing new trees to grow and the wood to regenerate. In England the vast majority of woodlands are too small for this natural cycle to work effectively and they cannot just be ‘left to nature’. Furthermore, most woodlands in lowland England have been managed over many decades to provide timber products for man; manual planting and felling has replaced the natural cycle.
The larch and sweet chestnut in The Grove would have been planted years ago as a commercial crop that would need to be harvested at some point. The current disease situation has merely brought that process forward and compressed it into a short time-frame. Once the larch and sweet chestnut have been removed from The Grove and Ball Copse, the Trust will replant with native broad-leave trees appropriate for the locality. Overall, the process will actually improve the long-term future quality of the woodland both for people and wildlife and allow it to move towards a more ‘natural’ state going forwards. There is no escaping that it will be destructive in the short term but must been seen in the context of a management regime that runs over decades and even centuries.
Whilst the work is being carried out parts of the woodland will be closed in order to maintain public safety so please adhere to any warning signs you see. The SWCP that runs between Brixham and Elberry Cove will remain open allowing continued access to Churston Cove.
The trust is working closely with neighbouring landowners to ensure the operations run as smoothly as possible with a view to starting operations within the next month.