Oak Thinning

With only a few bits of (quite heavy) timber to remove with our Tuesday volunteers tomorrow the Oak Thinning project, which has been one of the main aspects of our practical work this winter, is as good as done.

The process began with removing the dense holly which formed the understory of the oak thinning area, which is about a hundred yards south of the sun dial. This was completed before Christmas largely with the help of volunteers using bow saws and loppers with a minimum of fuss despite the prickles from holly and lengthy drags to the fire site.

The ongoing project is part funded with a grant from the Forestry Commission. An FC representative came down before the felling to mark up the trees to be removed with Sam. “The white mark of death” as it was known by some denoted the oaks to be removed, leaving healthy specimens to mature without competition from nearby trees. The oaks in the area were principally self seeded natural regen from the 1960’s which meant many trees of a similar age growing too closely together to form a healthy canopy from mature oaks which is beneficial to our native wildlife.

Felling was completed mainly in February by Sam and I, ably assisted by our volunteers who dragged and burnt the brash as well as a few days from NT rangers on nearby sites. The felling was a bit tricky in places as the trees were so close together. We tried our best to squeeze felled trees through narrow gaps to avoid damage to it’s neighbours, causing broken branches over paths and the like. This wasn’t always the case though, heads were scratched at times when seemingly spot-on chainsaw work led to trees being hung up. Fortunately being able to pull these out with the tractor mounted winch saved any further embarrassment!

The final stage was cutting the timber into 8 foot lengths and extracting it using the aforementioned skidder winch and forwarding trailer (on which the dodgy hydraulics almost drove me insane before a trip down to our engineers got it fixed up!). Now most of the removed oak is stacked up outside the workshop to be seasoned before being sold as firewood to local residents.

One of our aims here at Petts Wood & Hawkswood is to continue traditional management practices such as this. Projects like oak thinning as well as the coppicing and sycamore removal which were carried out this winter benefit native English wildlife, which has adapted over many hundred years to woodland managed in this manner. Opening up the woods also adds amenity value our local residents and dog walkers.

I hope this post was of interest to you, feel free to post any opinions or questions in the comments section below and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

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About Richard

Ranger Petts Wood & Hawkswood Estate
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