Parson’s Park is 37.8 ha in size and lies one kilometre to the east of Caldbeck village, just outside the northern boundary of the Lake District National Park. The land was originally acquired leasehold from the Church Commissioners and the majority of planting took place in 1956. In 2000, the lease was purchased and the land is now entirely owned freehold.
45% of the woodland area is occupied by conifers, principally Sitka spruce, Japanese and hybrid larch and Douglas fir. This compares with 77% in 2003. 6% of the woodland is currently open ground, some of which is expected to regenerate naturally with broadleaves over the next few years. Parson’s Park lies just outside the Lake District National Park but, due to the topography, is mostly viewed from within the park The wood lies on the lower slope of Warnell Fell, just inside the Natural England “Cumbria High Fells” Landscape Character Area. The landscape in this part of Cumbria is shaped by the Skiddaw Slates which have been eroded to form smooth, steep-sided rounded humps such as Blencathra, Skiddaw, Carrock Uldale and Caldbeck Fells. Woodland in the immediate area tends to be small in scale, with a mixture of broadleaved and conifer plantations, native broadleaved woodlands and farm shelterbelts.
The main areas of interest in the wood are the ancient woodland sites and the slopes leading down to the river. The ancient woodland areas include mixed birch and ash woodland and hazel coppice with well developed woodland ground flora. The PAWS sites, particularly those planted with larch contain good remnant vegetation, including naturally regenerated broadleaved trees. Externally, the wood has good linkages to other ancient woodland sites and forms part of a habitat network. The lower slopes are of particular importance with regard to the SSSI and SAC. There is a red squirrel population in the woodland, which makes use both of the mature conifers and the broadleaved woodland. The wood does not fall into any of the red squirrel reserves or buffer zones.
The woodland is mainly used by local people for quiet recreation, such as dog walking and horse riding. The bridleway that runs through the wood forms part of the Cumbria Way and the steeper section of this has recently been upgraded to a high standard.
The main objective for Parson’s Park over the period will be the continued restoration of the PAWS areas through thinning and natural regeneration. Further objectives are:
Protection of the Caldbeck SSSI and SAC through restoration of native woodland.
Maintenance of a conifer seed source for red squirrels in the short to medium term.
The steep slope above the river Cald Beck should be managed primarily for water quality
The young plantations of Sitka spruce and Douglas fir outside the PAWS areas can continue to be managed for timber production over the course of the next rotation, but incorporating naturally regenerated broadleaves into the canopy wherever possible.
Production of conifer timber in the medium term through regular thinning
The current low key informal access and recreation arrangements continue to be appropriate.
The previous plan included a series of clear-felling operations to remove conifers from the site. The analyses of factors above, and the revised objectives for the wood, have led to a revision of this policy and a move towards a continuous cover policy for the whole wood.
In the longer term, as the wood gradually becomes more broadleaved in nature, it is not intended that harvesting operations will stop. The site is fertile, with reasonable access and should be capable of producing regular supplies of broadleaved timber, either for firewood or for higher value markets.