The Gisburn Forest Plan covers 1256 hectares of conifer plantation, broadleaved woods and open land in the upper Hodder valley in Lancashire. The whole of Gisburn Forest, the largest wooded area in the county, lies within the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Much of the area covered by the plan is leased to the public forest estate by United Utilities, but there is open access for quiet recreation by agreement with the freeholder. Parking and picnic facilities with waymarked walks and cycle routes are well used by visitors and supplement an extensive network of public footpaths here.
A small area of Ancient Woodland within the forest, known as Park Wood, and several wetland areas by Bottom Laithe and along Bottoms beck are classified as Biological Heritage Sites (BHS) valued for their special plant and animal life. Elsewhere the varied habitats provided by the mix of woodland, grassland, moorland and bog support a wide range of wildlife including important raptors such as Hen harrier and Short-eared owl.
There are two prehistoric barrows on the banks of Dob Dale beck, which are Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAM). Three old farmsteads, scattered farm buildings and other features within the forest are important remnants of historic agricultural land use, and the route of a light railway used in constructing Stocks reservoir dam can still be followed through the forest.
Our aim is to create a more diverse and resilient woodland, with a greater range of species and habitats. The objectives of management here are:
- Maximise the value of sustainable timber production by felling and restocking with productive mixtures and species best suited to better soils, and by thinning windfirm stands.
- Create new recreation opportunities and support local tourism based businesses, working with the Upper Hodder Valley partnership.
- Restructure the forest through phased felling and restocking and open space management to increase the value of the woodlands for wildlife.
- Increase the extent of new native mixed broadleaved woodland to create a continuous habitat corridor through the forest.
- Maintain BHS special features and keep Bottom Laithe free from tree regeneration.
- Explore opportunities to enhance visitor access and facilities.
- Improve internal and external views through restructuring and restocking with a diverse mix of conifer species, and with native broadleaves in the valley and along forest edges.
The current plan outlines management proposals including felling and restocking over several decades, with felling licence approval for operations up until 2025.
The areas due to be felled and restocked during the ten years to 2025 are summarised in the table below. The restocking figure includes some previously felled area.
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 spruce and other conifer species, broadleaved woodland and open space at the beginning of the plan period are shown in the bar chart. The gradual reduction of spruce and the increase in broadleaved planting expected within the plan period and over time is indicated in the middle and right hand columns of the chart.