The Clowes Wood Forest Plan covers 235 hectares of public forest estate woodland in North Kent, located roughly 5 miles to the north-west of Canterbury. The coastal towns of Whitstable and Herne Bay lie to the north and north-east respectively. Beyond the wood, the surrounding countryside is split equally between forest and farmland.
Although almost half of the area has been planted with conifers, the whole of Clowes Wood is an ancient woodland site and forms part of the 3,000 hectare Blean woodland complex. Part of the wood is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the wider Blean Woods are designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for the quality of the oak/hornbeam woodland community found here. A large part of the Blean complex is also a National Nature Reserve.
Several ponds in Clowes wood provide valuable habitat for foraging bats and for invertebrates and the network of rides and open space help to support a number of key species - the wood is a nationally important site for the Heath Fritillary butterfly. Developing heathland also supports spring migrant birds such as nightjar and turtle dove, and resident species like Dartford warbler and Woodcock. There are records of Great crested newts in the Winding Pond, and a large hollow ash tree adjacent to the pond supports a colony of bats.
There are two ancient Bowl Barrows in Clowes Wood which are Scheduled Monuments, and each has a separate management plan agreed with Historic England. A section of the Canterbury to Whitstable line - the first passenger railway line in the world - was adapted for use as a forest road and now forms part of a Sustrans cycle route.
Clowes wood car park is accessed from Radfall Road, just south of the main A299, and visitors use the woodland for dog-walking, cycling and running. There is also a formal picnic site by the Winding Pond. Five public footpaths cross the woodland, as well as two bridleways. Elsewhere horse riding in the woodland is managed under an existing agreement with the Toll Rides Off-road Trust.
The Forestry Comission works closely with the Blean Initiative, a partnership of landowners, local authorities, conservation bodies and community groups, to look after this unique and fascinating landscape for wildlife and for people.
The objectives of sustainable forest management here are:
- Maintain and enhance remnant ancient woodland features, with the most shade casting conifers prioritised for management.
- Maintain the condition of the SSSI and take account of identified features of Special Nature Conservation Interest.
- In the absence of mature broadleaves, retain mature conifers to
maintain age and structural diversity and as nesting habitat for large birds of prey.
- Maintain the ride network and ponds to provide valuable habitat for wildlife as well as visitor amenity.
- Design and manage the woodlands to provide an attractive backdrop to the lives of local people and ensure a safe and enjoyable visit without compromising important habitats and species.
- Plan to reflect the interests and expectations of the Blean Partnership and the partners' vision for the future.
- Ensure a sustainable harvest of timber for the continuing maintenance of programmes to deliver an enhanced environment, secure the woods for the future and provide employment opportunities.
- Supplement natural regeneration of native broadleaves with planting as necessary to maintain the wood’s productivity.
Plantation conifers will gradually be replaced with native broadleaves. Some veteran conifers will be retained to maintain habitat and landscape diversity. Permanent open space will be centred on the heathy woodland area and the heritage sites.
The current plan outlines management proposals including felling and restocking over several decades, with felling licence approval for operations up until 2020.
The planned areas of clearfelling and restocking during the ten years to 2020 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.