- What we'll do
The Quantock Forest Plan area is made up of 5 separate woodlands totalling 943 hectares in Somerset. The majority of the woodlands lie within the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). As individual woodlands set within the locally distinctive heath commons and farmland they have very high natural and landscape diversity and value.
The woodlands managed as part of the public forest estate stretch from St Audries in the north, half a mile from the Bristol Channel, through the larger forests of Great Wood and Wind Down to Goathurst and Kings Cliff in the south which are 3 miles from Bridgwater and the M5 motorway.
Almost two thirds of the plan area is classed as Ancient Woodland where regeneration of native species is a priority. The public forest here is a mixture of conifer and broadleaved plantation and mature and regenerating native woodland. Remnant ancient semi-natural oak woodland is found along the watercourses and some higher parts of Great Wood. The area is known to produce exceptionally large and high quality Douglas fir. Most of the areas are actively managed to provide timber for local and national businesses, and to improve the quality of the remaining tree crop.
The Plan area contains three Scheduled Monuments two of which are currently recorded on the Historic England ‘At Risk’ Register. Rhuborough and Plainsfield Camp are large ironage hill forts made up of ditches and ramparts and have in recent centuries been used to pen livestock. Dead Women’s Ditch is also an ironage fortification linked to Dowsborough Camp and stretches out on to the open heathland. The Halswell Registered Park and Garden which covers much of Goathurst is also designated for its cultural significance.
The vast majority of the Plan area is Open Access, confirmed by the Countryside Rights of Way Act. The exception is Wind Down which is de facto Open Access due to it being leased from another landowner. Great Wood is the main focus of recreational activity and is a particularly nice place to picnic, walk, run or ride thanks to the steep, deep valleys and very large trees here.
The core aim of the plan is to produce woodlands with increased conservation and landscape benefits whilst maintaining a viable timber output. The long term aims of management here are to continue the process of restoring Ancient Woodland while increasing resilience to climate, pest and disease risks, and to develop the forest for people.
The social, economic and environmental objectives of management here are:
- The continued production of sustainable and marketable woodland products.
- To conserve, maintain and enhance cultural and heritage assets
- The provision and maintenance of recreation facilities.
- To protect and restore areas of ancient woodland in line with ‘Keepers of Time’.
- Protect and enhance woodland and open habitats and their associated species.
- To deliver well-designed proposals that comply with landscape design principles in keeping with the AONB.
The current plan outlines management proposals including felling and restocking over several decades, with felling licence approval for operations up until 2026.
Areas identified as PAWS will be managed as mixed woodland to maximise their productive potential, with the aim of a gradual return to native woodland.
Areas identified as secondary woodland will continue to be managed primarily for conifer timber production under a clearfell and restock scheme.
Implementation and maintenance of an environmental corridor system will continue to increase diversity of habitat and internal landscaping.
The planned areas of clearfelling, restocking and permanent open space creation during the ten years to 2026 are summarised in the chart below.
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 proportions of conifer and broadleaved woodland and open space at the beginning of the plan period are shown in the bar chart. The increase in native broadleaves and open space expected within the plan period and over time is indicated in the middle and right hand columns of the chart.