This plan sets out the Forestry Commission’s plans for Dalton Crags for the period 2012 to 2021.
Dalton Crags is situated approximately 2 kilometres east of the M6 motorway, near to the village of Burton-in Kendal. The woodland area amounts to 119 hectares and occupies a south-west facing slope on the edge of the Hutton Roof massif. The woodland was acquired from Dalton Hall Estate in 1947 on a 999 year lease. The estate retained the sporting rights.
Following acquisition, the site was managed for timber production and was used as a trial area for the afforestation of limestone soils. Grazing was discontinued in 1951 and there was a notable increase of birch and heather. Most of the areas of grass and bracken were planted with a 2:1 mix of beech and Scots pine.
Recent management of the woodland has involved the removal of nurse crops, felling of conifer blocks and general thinning, which has favoured native species wherever possible. In 2008,cattle grazing was re-introduced in an attempt to maintain open space and grassland habitats. This is low key and extensive, and is having a positive effect on the diversity of the site.
Hutton Roof Crags SSSI supports a diverse range of semi-natural habitats. Within this, the Forestry Commission holding at Dalton Crags comprises a mosaic of semi-natural and planted broadleaved woodland, scrub, conifer plantation and calcareous grassland on discontinuous limestone pavement.
The Hutton Roof Crags complex supports a diverse invertebrate fauna. The Forestry Commission holding has not been systematically surveyed for many invertebrate groups, however, it is an important site for butterflies and supports a strong colony of the nationally declining pearl-bordered fritillary; other species present include dark green fritillary and grayling.
In 2006, an agreement was reached with the lessor to dedicate the land under the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) act. This formalised the existing de facto public access that had already developed on the site. The wood has good links to existing rights of way and access land, and is popular with walkers who use the woodland tracks
The main objective of the plan for Dalton Crags is to maintain and enhance the restoration of Ancient Woodland sites & SSSI’s. Other objectives are:
Protect the limestone pavements and their associated geological features.
Maintain and enhance the botanical interest of the limestone pavements.
Maintain small-scale broadleaved timber production, generating an income for the woodland.
What we’ll do
The site has been split into three main management zones in order to achieve the objectives outlined above.
Continuous cover woodland: This area will receive periodic thinning interventions. The aim will be to remove remaining pockets of beech and conifer and to allow more light to reach the forest floor.
Beech and conifer clearfell zone: These areas, mainly of pure beech or Corsican pine, with some larch are less likely to respond positively to thinning, and will be felled in a series of felling coupes.
Open ground and scattered woodland zone: The upper slopes are where most of the reversion to calcareous grassland has already taken place. This process will continue, with more felling of pockets of beech and conifers where present.
Timber harvesting in all the zones will be carried out on an economic basis, with produce being sold, either for firewood or for more valuable uses. Over time, it will be possible to build up a higher value broadleaved resource on the site.
The situation with Chalara will continue to be monitored. A national strategy is being developed and any response to dieback will be governed by this guidance. Due to the non-commercial nature of the site, and the biodiversity objectives, neither sanitation felling nor extensive replanting of alternative species are likely to be preferred options. It is to be hoped that there is enough genetic diversity in the wood for regeneration of disease-resistant stock to regenerate any areas where mature trees are killed. However, it is too early to know this, and some element of restocking with resistant ash may prove necessary in the long term.