May’s Wood 2nd Anniversary: A review of 2015
In our second year, we have successfully completed the final western phase of new woodland with the planting of over 30,000 trees. This includes species such as ash and field maple woods and oak woods which are usually associated with fertile soils, forming a continuum from base-rich to more acid soils with the addition of Beech and Yew.
This combination provides the potential to form mosaics with other types of woodland, particularly lowland beech yew, sweet chestnut or hornbeam coppice although species other than ash, field maple, and hazel may dominate, depending on the soil conditions. These include lime, hornbeam, and oak in the canopy and blackthorn, elder, dogwood and spindle in the under storey.
Identification of the dominant field layer species is usually necessary to identify the sub-community. The lime-demanding species become less frequent on more acid soils, where pedunculate oak and birch are more prominent. Other prominent species include hornbeam, small-leaved lime, and sweet chestnut, but ash is less frequent in South of England.
On the impoverished acid soils, particularly on free-draining sandy plains, pedunculate oak and birch dominate, other species are rarer but may include rowan, alder, aspen, and holly. The field layer is often dominated by bracken, wavy hair-grass and ericaceous species such as heather and bilberry, but is generally species poor.
In total, we have now planted over 100,000 trees and shrubs in May’s Wood. A total area of approximately 65 hectares.
In the community woodland areas, we continue to provide the care and maintenance for previous years plantings. This includes regular weeding and tree shelter maintenance, in addition to the hand pulling of ragwort. It is important to be ‘weeding’ around new trees and shrubs to stop competition for food, water and light from brambles and grasses, although we hope we have dramatically reduced potential problems by mulching around the newly planted trees.
Hedgerows are one of the most important habitats for wildlife and with correct management will support a good variety of birds, small mammals, insects, and plants.The hedge margin, if well maintained, will encourage ground nesting birds. It will also be an ideal habitat for many species of insects, which are both food for birds and often predators of pests.
The mixed planting provides for thick and bushy hedges as this type is more beneficial to many birds and hedgerow shrubs such as hawthorn and bramble also provide fruits for food.
Our hedges are cut in winter, usually, late January - early February. You should NEVER undertake hedge maintenance between March and July as birds are nesting - it is illegal to intentionally damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird. If you have missed the window for this year it is best to delay maintenance until late autumn, as fruits are valuable food for birds. The fruit is often borne on last year’s growth so it is better to cut hedges every other year. Our plan is to cut one side one year and the other side the next. We have also planted some trees to develop as standards at about ten-metre intervals so that Birds can use these as song perches. We have a mix of Oak, ash, field maple and hornbeam as all provide benefits for wildlife, however, the Oak, in particular, is home to an enormous number of insects
Hedge margins should be at least 2m wide if space allows. Margins can be left to regenerate naturally or, like ours, can be sown with a mixture of native grass and wildflower seeds. The pollen and nectar provided will encourage insects, and the plants conceal the base of the hedge which can then provide a home and a run for small mammals. Margins can have an annual cut, usually in August after the flowers have seeded be cut bi-annually in a rotation. This ensures some over-wintering vegetation is always provided. Careful thought should be given to the disposal of the branches removed. Know as ‘Brash’ they can sometimes be used to create a barrier to prevent grazing of young hedges, otherwise, it is best to remove brash offsite or shred as burning may well damage other habitats and the wildlife they contain. We completed the fencing works associated with the new school.
We have now produced phase II management plan document which detailed all the required specifications and standards expected to successfully complete the new planting scheme to the highest standard. A longer-term maintenance plan has also been produced which outlines all appropriate measures to ensure the successful establishment of newly planted woodland and on-going management of associated habitats such as wildflower meadows and hedgerows.
Coppice Areas 7,8 and 9.
These areas were planted as a commercially viable woodland to augment and complement the existing area of commercially managed woodland in Shitterton Wood and Kites Hill.
The first area of coppice was planted as hazel and sweet chestnut to complement the existing area of hazel coppice located in Piddle wood. Both the hazel and sweet chestnut were planted at a high density of 5000 stems per hectare. This included the planting of multiple tree species in intimate or regular mixtures to add resilience to the overall scheme.
We’ve recently added some additional tracks and carried out renovation and maintenance on others.This included grading and re-seeding all the tracks that become rutted during the planting operations.The track leading from Kites Hill down into the newly planted areas was also graded to help provide continuity of access between Mays Wood and Kites Hill.
Grassland and Wildflower Meadow
All grassland areas and wildflower meadows were cut at least once during the year, with wildflower arisings taken from the site, this is to maximise environmental benefits and maintain a healthy wildflower assemblage.
Wildflower Grassland Area
On the margins of the wildflower area or on transition with planted areas, grass cutting will take place on a rotational basis to ensure that the grassland retains a buffer around the margins to retain areas that can act as wildlife refuges.
Maintenance of the Public Rights of Way and internal tracks.
Throughout the year, all tracks, footpaths, and bridleways have been cut to ensure the general public have access throughout the entire community woodland site and to provide good vehicular access within the commercial woodland plantation. We have also fitted fire beaters across the Community Woodland and coppiced areas. We carried out routine maintenance and general repairs to fences and gates.
Fences and Gates
We carried out routine maintenance and general repairs to fences and gates and new fencing and gate works were undertaken. Amazingly, over 1400m of fencing has been erected and two new vehicle gates have been installed. This was an extensive task that the team did well to complete on time, but whilst on a roll, they decided to erect a new post and wire fence to renew the boundary between the commercial woodland planting area.
Sadly, our wildlife monitoring programme has a mixed start after our camera traps were stolen. Not to be deterred we have begun to monitor deer and badger populations throughout the woodland in line with our ecological report and plans. We plan to significantly increase the number of species we are monitoring throughout 2016 to establish a baseline for the site. This will allow us to closely analyse the benefits to flora and fauna as May’s Wood evolves from baron former agricultural land in the coming years.
News and updates on our May’s Wood project will be published on the website throughout the year.
Picture credit: Linda Lamon 2015