The Plym Forest Plan covers 544 Hectares of Public Forest Estate land around the river Plym and its tributaries in south Devon. The woods here are a mixture of planted conifers and broadleaves, ancient and semi-natural woodland.
The area covered by the plan includes Olderwood plantation on the edge of Dartmoor; a succession of woods from Hele to Darklake and Common Wood west of the river around Bickleigh, and most of the woodland east of the river from the national park boundary down to Boringdon Park and Elfordleigh Woods. Together these form a network central to the wider wooded and farmed landscape of the Plym valley, stretching south and west from Dartmoor to the city of Plymouth.
Just over half of Plym Forest is dedicated as access land under the Countryside and Rights Of Way Act, with recreation facilities centred on Cann Woods in the southern half of the forest (not to be confused with Cann Wood Local Nature Reserve further west).
A managed car park provides access to a network of forest roads, rides and trails, popular with local people for walking, cycling and horse riding. An independent organisation called Forest Friends also operates a forest school within Cann Woods.
Heritage features include a post medieval deer park, a 19th century lead mine and the iron age hill fort at Boringdon camp just outside the forest. A waymarked trail links the fort with other features of interest and viewpoints throughout the wood.
Plym Forest is home to a wide variety of wildlife, and Cann Wood is named as a priority site in the joint strategy for Lepidoptera on Forestry Commision Land in England, prepared in partnership with Butterfly Conservation. The area provides habitat for the Small pearl-bordered and Silver-washed fritillary butterflies, and management will link open and semi-open areas to benefit these and many other species.
This plan aims to deliver an increase in permanent open space as well as an increase in the area of native broadleaves, to improve the matrix of habitats for wildlife. The objectives of management in Plym are:
- Continue sustainable management of the woodland resource by thinning all areas and adopting continuous cover and low impact silvicultural systems where viable.
- Develop woodland resilience by clear felling with the intention of diversifying age structure and species composition.
- Enhance the woodlands' value for nature conservation and biodiversity through diversification, and maintain natural reserves.
- Increase cover of native broadleaves over time, with the emphasis on Plantation on Ancient Woodland Sites.
- Develop a matrix of open and semi open habitat to provide linkages for nature, through management of existing corridors.
- Monitor coupes designated as successional habitat, reacting to natural processes to influence their diversity and productivity.
- Maintain the wooded landscape and design coupes to enhance external views.
- Maintain access in freehold areas for formal and informal recreation.
- Enhance visitor experience by managing internal landscaping along existing corridors.
- Continue liaison with local organisations and pursue any opportunities for partnership working.
- Conserve all cultural and heritage features. Avoid damage and when possible improve any issues which increase the risk of deterioration.
- Seek opportunities to improve interpretation and promote heritage features.
The current plan outlines management proposals including felling and restocking over several decades, with felling licence approval for operations up until 2024.
Previous clearance of larch due to Phytophthora ramorum infection has had a significant impact. A number of sites were re-stocked with a mix of native broadleaves and remaining areas will develop more gradually. On those areas designated as ancient woodland, site native broadleaves will be allowed to regenerate naturally. Secondary woodland will be restocked with productive conifer species, with any existing stable individuals or groups of broadleaves retained.
We will pursue opportunities to develop the recreational use of those woodlands close to Plymouth. There is scope for targeted interpretation and visitor facilities and expansion of the formal trail network.
The planned areas of clearfelling, restocking and permanent open space creation during the ten years to 2024 are summarised in the table. The restocking figure includes significant areas felled prior to this plan revision.
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 increase in native broadleaves and open space expected within the plan period and over time is indicated in the middle and right hand columns of the chart.