The group of woodlands are scattered across the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in North Dorset and Wiltshire from North of Sixpenny Handley to the North-West of Wilton Village. The total area covered is 1882 hectares. The woods are all managed by the Forestry Commission under either freehold or leasehold arrangements dependant on the area in question.
Due to the position of the woodlands near local towns and villages they are popular for public recreation. Regularly used for informal recreation activities including dog walking, horse riding and cycling the woods enjoy strong visitor numbers. The most popular sites are those close to Wilton and Salisbury, in particular Hare Warren.
Many of the woodlands include sites of Ancient Woodland which forms a main conservation point for the area. In addition there are 11 Scheduled Ancient Monuments within Cranborne Chase and North Dorset Woodlands.
The objectives of management here are to:
• Utilise the Forest Enterprise Ancient Woodland survey to advance the development of native woodland in the Cranborne Chase and North Dorset woodlands.
• Develop woodlands that provide opportunities for informal and formal public recreation and education, especially in woodland areas adjacent to village settlements.
• Provide a regular and diverse supply of quality timber to support local employment and local timber processing industries.
• Protect all Scheduled Ancient Monuments and any other features of woodland and cultural heritage.
• Achieve an appropriate balance of objectives through consultation with local communities and representatives of organisations involved with nature conservation, cultural heritage, public access and recreation and the timber/woodland products industry.
Approval was granted for the operations to run from April 2004 to March 2014. During this period the aim was to fell 52.2 hectares of Conifers and restock 28.6 hectares of Broadleaves. While 0.7 hectares of open space was created and 9.6 hectares of Downland used for the purposes of habitat restoration.
The chart below shows the current structure of the wood in 2004 and the target structure for 2024.