The woodland block is situated in East Sussex and comprises four woods: Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Head Down Plantation, Ditcham Woods and West Harting Down. The total area is 911 hectares and the woods lie to the West of the South Downs within a notional 6x6km square as marked by the location of the villages of Buriton, South Harting, Compton and Chalton, lying in the West of the South Downs area. The woods are held by the Forestry Commission under a combination of freehold and leasehold.
The level of recreation varies greatly between the sites. Queen Elizabeth Country Park provides visitor centre, shop, café and theatre for visitors as well as way-marked trails and play facilities. While West Harting Down is very popular with dog walkers and horse-riders. Visitor figures are lower for Head Down Plantation and limited to permissive activities such as orienteering, and Ditcham remains quiet in terms of public access.
The woods are predominantly composed of broadleaf tree species, the most common being Beech. Though various conifer species are also present, particularly Western Red Cedar and 4% of the area is devoted to open space. West Harting Down covers an area of SSSI and was notified in 1985 under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Unscheduled and Scheduled archaeological sites have been found at both Queen Elizabeth Country Park and West Harting Down. While the latter has a Bronze Age cross dyke, Queen Elizabeth Country Park contains 31.4 hectares of Scheduled archaeology. This extensive area includes Holt Down Roman Villa, as well as drystone structures and potential barrow mounds among other finds.
The objectives of management here are to:
• Demonstrate sustainable use of woodlands and manage them in accordance with the UK Forest Standard (UKFS), the UK Woodland Assurance Standard (UKWAS) and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000/1).
• Support and enhance biological diversity.
• Protect and enhance special sites for conservation.
• Encourage people to appreciate and enjoy the woodlands in a sustainable way.
• Protect and conserve archaeological interest in the woodlands.
• Ensure that forestry operations take place at a scale and frequency that is in keeping with the surrounding landscape.
• Provide income from the marketing of timber products and the provision of recreation facilities.
• Provide further opportunity for partnership working.
Approval has been granted for the operations to run from December 2006 to November 2016. 62 hectares of Conifers will be felled, 55 hectares of Broadleaf trees will be restocked or allowed to naturally regenerate and 7.4 hectares will be converted to open chalk grassland habitat. While the 15 hectares of Broadleaf regeneration coupes will continue to be managed, as will the 728 hectares being managed under Low Impact Silvicultural Systems and the 27 hectares being managed by limited intervention methods.
The chart below shows the structure of the wood in 2006 and the target structure for 2036.