The Nagshead and Russells Forest Plan covers 1,070 hectares of mixed woods and open land, including several active quarries and mines, in the heart of the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. The whole area is part of the public forest estate and most is open access land, well used by walkers and cyclists.
Here magnificent broad crowned oaks, planted for timber during the Napoleonic wars, are found alongside tall stands of fast growing conifers, open woodland, wetland, grassland and heath, creating a wonderfully varied landscape. This valuable resource supports local employment in thriving wood using and fuel supply industries as well as traditional livestock grazing, small scale mining and mineral extraction.
In the southern part of the wood 305 hectares are leased to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and managed in partnership as both working woodland and as a nature reserve. A large part of this reserve is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for the quality of the mature oakwood and its wildlife, some nationally rare.
The Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust (GWT) looks after two nature reserves within the plan area: Spion Kop Quarry is noted for its geology and dramatic scenery, and Cannop Bridge Marsh for the wet woodland around Cannop ponds which provides habitat for otters as well as a wide range of birds, insects and plants. The ponds are also home to a local fishing club.
Elsewhere the mosaic of open space, new growth, veteran trees and deadwood benefits ground nesting and hole nesting birds, bats and many other species. The Linking the Pearls project in particular has improved habitat for the declining small pearl-bordered butterfly right across the plan area and the wider forest. This work was supported by the Sita trust through the Landfill Communities Fund.
Our aim is to maintain and enhance the rich diversity of natural and cultural assets throughout the plan area through the sustainable management of the forest for timber and wood products. Our objectives are:
- Protect and enhance both woodland and open habitats and promote their resilience and adaptation to climate change, pests and disease.
- Maintain Nagshead SSSI in favourable condition and work to enhance biodiversity in the RSPB and GWT reserves and throughout the wider plan area.
- Enhance the internal landscape through diversification of the forest structure.
- Protect heritage features and promote recreational use of the woodland.
- Continue the sustainable production of marketable wood products.
- Maintain accreditation under the UK Woodland Assurance Standard.
The current plan outlines management proposals including felling and restocking over several decades, with felling licence approval for operations up until 2024.
The planned areas of clearfelling, restocking and permanent open space creation during the ten years to 2024, and felled areas still in transition in 2024, are summarised in the table.
In addition to these defined operations, ongoing thinning and selective felling of both conifers and broadleaves will be carried out in the plan area at five to ten year intervals.
The proportions of conifer and broadleaved woodland and open space at the beginning of the plan period are shown in the bar chart. The gradual reduction of conifer cover and increase in broadleaved planting expected within the plan period and over time is indicated in the middle and right hand columns of the chart.