Rownhams Wood covers an area of 44 hectares and has been dynamic in the landscape for hundreds of years. During the 18th Century the surrounding area was largely common land with a mosaic of heathland, grassland, wood pasture and enclosed woodland, as reflected on the Ancient Woodland and Heathland Sites Map. Over the course of the next two hundred years, the land was more formally farmed, with hay meadows arising and more woodland being enclosed. It was during the mid to late 19th Century that Rownhams appears as more or less the shape we see today. Likely heavy harvesting of oak and beech during the two World Wars was followed by conifer and beech planting in the 1950s and 1960s, which has led to the current woodland composition. In 2006, several historical features were identified, including modern and medieval boundary banks and ditches and lynchets.
Approximately 70% of the woodland area is currently classified as either Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site (PAWS) or Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland (ASNW). There are significant conifer components throughout the woodland including Corsican pine, western hemlock, larch, Scots pine, Douglas fir and red cedar. Broadleaved species present include oak, hazel, alder, beech and ash. The ASNW is mainly alder. The north-south stream of Tanner’s Brook splits the woodland and is buffered by a mixture of alder, oak, hazel and other broadleaved species and some open space.
Rownhams Wood is held by the Forestry Commission under a long term lease, which enables the Forestry Commission to manage the woodland for forestry purposes.
The objectives of management here are to:
- Maintain and increase the native composition of ancient semi-natural woodland
- Initiate restoration of planted ancient woodland sites to native and honorary native woodland
- Take opportunities to increase the nature conservation value of other existing habitats, in particular the riverine habitat around Tanner's Brook
- Maintain and where possible increase the species and age diversity of the trees in the woodland
- Provide a regular supply of quality timber to support local employment and local timber processing industries
The introduction of continuous cover management systems will develop a varied age structure leading to a more resilient woodland. Managing PAWS areas under a shelterwood system favouring native broadleaves, and managing other areas as mixed woodland, will support a greater diversity of species.
Thinning and selective felling of both conifers and broadleaves will be carried out at five to ten year intervals, with regular coppicing around Tanner's brook.
The chart below shows the structure of the woodland at the start of the plan period, and the target structure at the end of the plan period and over time.