The Harling Woods Forest Plan plan covers 993 hectares of Thetford forest, on the eastern edge of Breckland in Norfolk. The woods here belong to the public forest estate and most of the area covered by the plan is open access land.
Thetford forest is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for a range of Breckland wildlife and habitats and a Special Protection Area (SPA) for Woodlark and Nightjar, which are ground nesting birds. Most of Harling Woods are planted with pine which is sustainably managed for timber through a cycle of clearfelling and replanting, providing habitat for the ground nesting birds in the process.
There are significant areas of broadleaved woodland here too, and much older pollard trees and avenues remain among the conifers. Heritage features are found throughout the forest, and there are three scheduled monuments - an iron age boundary ditch, two burial mounds and the remains of a medieval village. These are the subject of a management plan agreed with Historic England.
The aim is to maintain a steady supply of both timber and open habitat into the future, while increasing the variety of tree species.
The objectives of management in Harling are:
- Provide an even distribution of felled area and maintain the minimum area in cyclic clearfell required under the SPA designation
- Implement the Thetford Open Habitat Plan through the network of rides in the forest
- Manage scheduled monuments and protect sensitive heritage features within the wood
- Maintain a pleasant woodland environment for users
- Size and shape felling coupes to fit into the landscape
- Promote interest in historic environment features and improve access in public locations
- Smooth production from crops in cyclic clearfell
- Maximise production through appropriate restock species choice
- Increase species diversity and resilience to climate change, pests and disease
The Harling Forest Plan outlines management proposals including felling and restocking for a period of 70 years, with felling licence approval for operations up until 2025.
The areas of clearfelling, restocking and open space creation planned for the ten years to 2025 are summarised in the table below.
In addition to these defined operations, ongoing thinning and selective felling will be carried out in the plan area at five to ten year intervals.
The proposed changes in the proportions of conifer species, broadleaved woodland and open habitat over time are shown in the chart below.