The Cannock Forest Plan covers 2684 hectares of coniferous and broadleaf woodlands and open land in Staffordshire in the West Midlands between the towns of Stafford to the northwest, Cannock to the south and Rugeley to the east - Birmingham city centre is 20 miles to the south.
Most of the forest is freehold as part of the public forest estate and is designated as Open Access land. Much of the woodland in the west and north eastern corner of the plan area is leased to the Forestry Commission however, and access in these areas is restricted to Public Rights of Way.
The area covered by the plan lies within the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the majority is made up of conifers planted for timber production. There are also areas of ancient woodland, wetland, wood pasture and open heathland within the forest. Adjacent lowland heath is internationally important and is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).There are two Local Nature Reserves bordering the woods as well as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in Fairoak Valley.
There are many archaeological features within the AONB and the forest has a long history of hunting, grazing and mining. Evidence of more recent military training includes a first world war model trench system at Brocton, which is a Scheduled Monument.
Birches Valley visitor centre welcomes around 350,000 visitors to the forest each year and provides a wide range of outdoor activities. There are waymarked walking, cycling and orienteering trails through the forest, with camping and caravanning facilities at the Tackeroo site.
The main objectives for the Cannock Forest Plan are:
- Continue production of commercial conifers and broadleaves
- Make the economic potential of the forest more resilient in the face of a changing climate
- Facilitate the 2.3 million visitors to the AONB and 350,000 visitors to Birches Valley each year through the provision of recreation facilities and services
- Conserve and enhance surviving elements of the historic environment within the forest landscape
- Manage the forest for the conservation of the wide range of species which are found here
- Restore ancient woodland sites
The plan details management operations including approved felling and restocking for the 10 years to 2025, with outline proposals for a 50 year period.
The current threat to the primary conifer species in Cannock Forest from pests and diseases will lead to a greater variety of species being grown. To achieve this some stands of trees will be removed early to reduce the threat and stands that are dominated by Corsican pine will be diversified. A combination of clearfell and continuous cover management systems will be used to provide the best conditions to establish future stands.
The planned areas of clearfelling, restocking and permanent open space creation during the ten years to 2025 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 broadleaf woodland and open space at the beginning of the plan period are shown in the bar chart. The gradual reduction of conifer cover and the increase in broadleaf woodland and open space expected within the plan period and anticipated over time is indicated in the middle and right hand columns of the chart.