The Dunsop Valley Forest Plan covers 187 hectares of conifer plantation, broadleaved woods and open land in the Dunsop valley north of the small village of Dunsop Bridge in Lancashire. The forest lies within the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). All the adjoining open moorland is part of the Bowland Fells SSSI and the adjoining land in the valley bottom, owned by United Utilities is designated as a Biological Heritage Site.
The area covered by the plan is freehold originally purchased from the Duchy of Lancaster in 1952 and subsequently afforested by the Forestry Commission from the late 1950’s to 1970. Management at this time focused on maximising softwood timber output with some regard to landscape through the planting of a variety of mixed conifer species.
Coniferous trees dominate, with Sitka spruce and Lodgepole/Scots pine dominating. Other tree species present include Norway spruce and larch. There are areas of broadleaved trees particularly in Black Plantation and Dunsop Wood to the southern end of the valley.
The process of restructuring has begun with the completion of three clear felled areas in accordance to the Forest Design Plan. 10ha have been restocked with spruce and larch and 25 ha self-seeded with mainly conifer natural regeneration.
Wildlife interest within the conifer plantation is fairly limited due to the acid soil and dense shade, but some of the neighbouring land has significant interest. The moors above the forest are designated as SSSI and the area to the north of Beatrix Fell is a County Biological Heritage Site comprising a Clough stream and open structured birch woodland. The main areas of biological interest within the forest are the remnants of heather moorland and mire that have survived in unplanted areas. Species present include heather and bilberry with crowberry, heath bedstraw and wavy hair grass. On damper ground cross-leaved heath, cranberry, heath rush, soft rush, hare’s tail cotton grass, purple moor grass and sphagnum and Polytrichum mosses occur which supports a population of green hairstreak butterflies.
Although the woodlands are freehold they are essentially landlocked by private land and thus not accessible for general public use and public recreational use is limited to the valley bottom bridleway which links the Slaidburn area to the Trough of Bowland public road. There are no public rights of way within or into the woodlands on either side of the valley although the forest road through Black Plantation is a popular local route. The Duchy of Lancaster, who retained the original sporting rights in the woodland, operates a successful tenanted pheasant shoot in the valley.
There are no recorded heritage features within the woodland. Any features on neighbouring land are mostly associated with previous farming practices and land use.
Our aim is to create a more diverse and resilient woodland, with a greater range of species and habitats. The objectives of management here are:
- Maximise the value of sustainable timber production by felling and restocking with productive mixtures and species best suited to better soils, and by thinning windfirm stands.
- Improve access for timber harvesting through the establishment of two new timber transfer points in the valley.
- Optimise the financial value of areas which are regenerating with productive species.
- Restructure the forest through phased felling and restocking and open space management to increase the value of the woodlands for wildlife.
- Increase the extent of new native mixed broadleaved woodland to create a continuous habitat corridor through the valley and to buffer existing native Clough woodland.
- The upper forest boundary will be realigned post harvesting to achieve better integration with adjacent moorland.
- Explore opportunities to enhance visitor access and facilities through ongoing consultation and agreement with our neighbours.
- Improve internal and external views through restructuring and restocking with a diverse mix of conifer species, and with native broadleaves in the valley and along forest edges.
The proposals in this plan will lead to a more diverse and resilient woodland, with a greater range of species and habitats as it moves into its next rotation. By the end of this rotation, it is anticipated that a substantial area of native broadleaved woodland will have been established, and the range of conifer species will have been extended. Depending on the mix of objectives at that time, there will be a wider range of management options available. These will include a continuation of timber production from mixed stands but the presence of seed-bearing stands of broadleaves will also offer the possibility of further extension of the native woodland resource through natural regeneration.
The current plan outlines management proposals including felling and restocking over several decades, with felling licence approval for operations up until 2025.
The areas due to be felled and restocked during the ten years to 2025 are summarised in the table below. The restocking figure includes some previously felled area.
The proportions of spruce and other conifer species, broadleaved woodland and open space at the beginning of the plan period are shown in the bar chart. The gradual reduction of spruce and the increase in broadleaved planting expected within the plan period and over time are indicated in the right hand columns of the chart.