The Forestry Commission, through the England’s Trees, Woods and Forests’ Strategy, is delivering positive experiences and creating new opportunities in the West Midlands. The strategy is based on three themes of Community and Places, Land and Natural Environment and Working Woodlands.
The FC public forest estate in West Midlands consists of some 12000ha of woodland and open space, from near the Welsh border to the west to large expanses of woodland at Cannock Chase and Wyre Forest to the east. The woodlands are characterised by their variation, with significant broadleaved presence at Wyre Forest, to large areas of highly productive pine at Cannock and magnificent Douglas Fir Stands near Ludlow. At Shrawley in Worcestershire, we manage a unique Small-leaved lime woodland, probably the largest in England and are heavily involved in the creation of the National Forest in East Midlands, where a further 1000ha of land is managed.
The estate is a major public asset, which plays an important part in the delivery of sustainable forest management: looking after our forests and woodlands to ensure they continue to provide social, environmental and economic benefits to our, and future, generations.
Community and Places
There are plenty of things for people to do – between 150 and 200,000 visit the Birches Valley site alone. Recreation is believed to generate approximately £7 million for the local community, but there is still plenty of room for you to enjoy some peace and quiet. There is also the chance to enjoy the excitement of the forest if your chosen sport is a bit extreme. Some people will travel hundred of miles to throw themselves down a hillside on some of the best mountain bike trails in the country; some love the tranquillity of their local woods.
Heritage sites are many and varied from magnificent ancient hill forts to the east, to poignant World War 1 remains on Cannock Chase. A recent laser aerial survey at Wyre showed evidence of Saxon farms within what is now Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland.
Education is a stong output for the region's children with teams at both Cannock Chase and Wyre Forest delivering inspring programmes linked to the National Curriculum.
Land and Natural Environment
To create and maintain habitats, for some of our best-loved and most rare plants and animals, involves a whole host of activity throughout the region. In the West Midlands alone we have 44 SSSI units covering over 900ha. In fact, 93% of our estate falls into some sort of designated category such as NNR, Ancient Woodland, Priority Habitat or AONB. Butterfiles, dormice, reptiles, birds and may plant species have all benefited from a targeted approach to conservation management. For instance, a recent project to convert derelict mining buildings into bat roosts will encourage and protect rare species such as Lesser Horseshoe and ongoing woodland management focusing on the habitat needs of Wood White Butterflies has seen significant increases in population size.
We supply 72000m³ of sustainable timber, supplying local mills from local woods. This sustainability has come about by managing our forests to the UK Forestry Standard. Moreover, timber arising from Commission managed forests has the right to carry the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) label. This label, often seen on DIY products, is a guarantee that harvesting and processing maintains the forest’s biodiversity, productivity and ecological processes.
We also operate one of the largest FC Christmas Tree sales centres at Cannock Chase, where it is not uncommon to see third generation children visiting with their grandparents who remember coming in their youth.