Harbottle & Holystone are situated towards the eastern boundary of the Northumberland National Park, adjacent to the villages of the same name. The forest is owned freehold by the Forestry Commission and totals an area of 865 ha. The Forestry Commission gained the freehold ownership of the forest in a number of conveyances (eight in total). The first purchased in 1955 and the final from the Ministry of Defence (MOD) in 1987.
Of the combined total area 603 ha is forested with approximately 86 ha permanent open land and 173 ha agricultural. The current species composition is mainly coniferous, a mixture of pine, spruce and larch with scots pine and lodgepole pine dominant. The proportion of the forest which is broadleaf is significant in that the majority of the broadleaf is assessed as ancient semi-natural woodland.
Most of the current crops of trees were planted between 1954 and the mid 1970’s. The early planting in 1820 is all broad-leaved woodland, mostly oak but also some beech and birch. Felling and restocking of the first rotation plantation commenced in the early 1990’s and about a fifth of the woodland (18%) has since undergone felling and restocking.
The woodlands lie wholly within the Northumberland National Park. Three statutory designated Sites of Special scientific Interest (SSSIs), Holystone Burn Wood, Holystone North Wood and Harbottle Moor fall within the plan area which are covered by detailed management plans agreed with Natural England. Harbottle Crags is a Northumberland Wildlife Trust Reserve located on the Forestry Commission owned open moorland close to the Drake Stone forming part of the Harbottle Moor SSSI.
Two Scheduled sites of archaeological interest, the bronze age Campville Cairn (smr 20950) and a prehistoric cross dyke Campville Dyke (smr 20951) cutting off the promontory formed by the confluence of the Dove Crag and Holystone Burns. Other none scheduled sites of archaeological interest within the plan area are the route of a former roman road, and the remains of Romano British Farmsteads.
Harbottle and Holystone, though not heavily used for recreation are an important resource for the local community and visitors to the area. Two car parks are located within the forest with one waymarked walk associated with the Holystone car park to Lady’s Well, located just off the Forestry Commission estate.
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 the soils, and by thinning windfirm stands.
- Increase the area managed under continuous cover management.
- Restructure the forest through phased felling and restocking and open space management to increase the value of the woodlands for wildlife.
- Gradual conversion of Yardhope Oaks (Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site) through selective thinning and establishment of native woodland planting along the Dove Crag burn.
- The upper forest boundary will be realigned post harvesting to achieve better integration with adjacent moorland with the planting of open woodland habitat which will favour species such as black grouse.
- Improve the external attractiveness of the woodland through restructuring and choice of species and silvicultural systems.
- Maintenance of long-term tree cover around visitor areas through employing CCF techniques.
- Maintain local access arrangements with consideration to public access during all forest operations.
The proposals in this plan will lead to a more diverse and resilient woodland, with a greater range of species and habitats providing long term sustainability and greater resilience to potential pests and disease. Substantial areas of mixed conifer/broadleaved woodland will have been established managed through low impact systems, and the range of other broadleaved species will have been extended through the expansion of areas of Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland.
Timber production will continue according to the planned felling programme together with regular thinning of areas of continuous cover. Opportunities for the introduction of a broader range of commercial species, which will also contribute toward climate change mitigation will provide long term sustainability and the development of broadleaves away from designated areas could offer potential for alternative markets such as local woodfuel.
Wider species and age class diversity will enhance public benefit by improving the internal and external attractiveness of the woodland.
The current plan outlines management proposals including felling and restocking over several decades, with felling licence approval for operations up until 2026.
The areas due to be felled and restocked during the ten years to 2026 are summarised in the table below.
The proportions of conifer species and broadleaved woodland at the beginning of the plan period are shown in the bar chart. The reduction of spruce and pure crops of pine and the increase in the planting of alternative conifer species and broadleaves expected over time are indicated in the right hand columns of the chart. This reflects the objective to adapt future species in response to climate change projections and increase the proportion of the forest managed in alternative ways to clearfelling. Scots pine will remain a dominant component of the ‘other conifer’ category.