The Woodlands of the Hampshire Downs covers Ampfield Wood, Black Wood Block, Bushey Leaze, Chawton Park, Micheldever Forest, West Wood, Weston Common and Windmills Copse, a total area of 1774 hectares. The woods lie spread out in the area surrounding Winchester, between the North of Southampton and the West of Alton.
The eight woods vary between freehold and leasehold management arrangements and all are under the jurisdiction of the Forestry Commission. Large swathes of the area are designated as ancient semi-natural woodland (ASNW) or plantation on an ancient woodland site (PAWS). As a result these areas of ancient woodland form the main points of nature conservation within the woods. A number of sites across the different woods are also classed as Sites of Interest for Nature Conservation (SINC) by Hampshire County Council due to their ancient woodland status. Broadleaved species of tree as well as Conifer populate the woods, with the latter predominating.
Ampfield Wood and Chawton Park are the sites for Park Pales. The Park Pales at Ampfield have been granted the status of Scheduled Monument and are managed accordingly. While Micheldever Forest is classed as a Scheduled Monument almost in its entirety.
These woods are all used by the public informally for recreation, as permitted by the Forestry Commission in line with their by-laws, but only Black Wood, Bushey Leaze, Micheldever, Chawton Park and areas of West Wood are dedicated for open access under the Countryside Rights of Way Act. In addition Black Wood is also the location of a Forest Holidays cabin site.
The objectives of management here are to:
• Maintain and increase the native composition of ancient semi-natural woodland.
• Restore planted ancient woodland sites to native and honorary native woodland.
• Maintain sustainable access and the provision for recreation within the woodlands, taking opportunities to enhance the experience where appropriate.
• Take opportunities to improve the nature conservation value of other existing habitats.
• Maintain the diversity of age structure and appropriate species mix within the woodland.
• Provide a regular supply of quality timber to support local employment and local timber processing industries.
Approval has been granted for the operations to run from November 2014 to November 2024. During this time 6.4 hectares of High Forest Broadleaves will be felled and either replanted or allowed to regenerate naturally. 1695.6 hectares will be managed under a shelterwood system, 29.3 hectares of permanent open space will continue to be managed as will the 26.6 hectares of Natural Reserve and the 16.1 hectares of car park.
The chart below shows the current structure of the wood and the long term structure.