The Mundford and Lynford Forest Plan covers 5,426 hectares of the public forest estate in Norfolk. Part of Thetford Forest, the plan area is surrounded by the villages of Mundford, Weeting, West Tofts Camp and the town of Brandon. The forest here lies on a plateau with the northern and southern edges dipping towards the low meandering flood plains of the river Wissey and the Little Ouse.
Almost three quarters of the area is planted with pines, with broadleaved trees - mainly beech, oak, sycamore and birch - other conifers and open space making up the remainder. Most of the forest has been designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) for Woodlark and Nightjar, which are ground nesting birds, with mature woodland used as breeding habitat by several species of raptor and other Schedule 1 birds such as Firecrest. Parts of the forest are also notified as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for their rare Breckland plants and invertebrates.
The Forestry Commission, in partnership with Natural England and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, has created 300 hectares of heathland in Thetford Forest, most of which lies within this plan area. These heathland sites also contain areas of both acid and calcareous grassland. There are two extensive lakes and one smaller pond around Lynford Hall, which have become important aquatic habitats.
There are ten Scheduled Monuments in these woods including the long linear feature known as the Fossdyke - the rest being burial mounds. All have separate management plans agreed with Historic England which are renewed every five years. There is also a listed park and garden surrounding Lynford Hall. Some of the wider grounds are managed as the Lynford Arboretum, the remainder being woodland of mixed species including an impressive avenue of mature Wellingtonia. Other important landscape features include the avenue of mature lime trees near The Stag and the mature chestnut trees along the main A134.
The area covered by the plan is owned freehold by the public forest estate and has been dedicated as open access land under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. There are five sites with car parking: Lynford Arboretum, which has a network of easy access paths; The Stag picnic site, which also has a play structure and waymarked trails; and Emily's Wood, Two Mile Bottom and Santon Street.
The objectives of forest management here are:
- Aim for an even distribution of felled area for Woodlark/Nightjar habitat and maintain the minimum area of cyclic clearfell required under the SPA designation.
- Implement the Thetford Open Habitat Plan through the network of rides in the forest.
- Encourage people away from the managed heathland reversion areas during sensitive times of the year.
- Maintain a pleasant woodland environment for use by local stakeholders.
- Size and shape felling coupes to fit with the landscape.
- Protect and maintain sensitive archaeology sites within the wood.
- Smooth production from crops in cyclic clearfell whilst meeting market commitments for 2013-23.
- Restock to maximise production while increasing species diversity and resilience to climate change, pests and disease.
Dothistroma Needle Blight has spread right across Thetford forest and as a result Corsican pine, which is particularly susceptible to this disease, must be gradually replaced with other species. Scots pine is also affected but to a lesser extent. Remnants of the original Scots pine planting which established the forest will be retained in small clumps as habitat for raptors and as landscape features.
The current plan outlines management proposals including felling and restocking over several decades, with felling licence approval for operations up until 2023.
The planned areas of clearfelling and restocking during the ten years to 2023 are summarised in the table below. Any permanent open space creation will be informed by the Thetford Open Habitat strategy, but none is planned at this time.
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 chart below shows the projected proportions of pine and other conifers, broadleaves and open space over time compared to the current proportions and illustrates the planned increase in the diversity of tree species across the plan area.