The Dartmoor Forest Plan area is made up of four separate forest blocks totalling 1388 hectares in Devon. The forests lie within the Dartmoor National Park. As distinct individual forest blocks set within the distinctive moorland they have very high natural and landscape diversity and value.
The forests managed as part of the public forest estate stretch from Fernworthy in the north, 3 miles west of Chagford, through Soussons and Bellever, close to the village of Bellever, to Brimpts in the south.
The public forest here is predominantly conifer having been planted after the First World War to address the national timber shortage by the Duchy of Cornwall. The area is known to produce exceptionally large and high quality Sitka spruce which makes up the vast majority of the trees here. Most of the areas are actively managed to provide timber for local and national businesses and to improve the quality of the remaining tree crop.
The Plan area contains three Scheduled Monuments within Fernworthy, Bellever and Soussons. These are made up of numerous archaeological features from farmsteads, enclosures and settlements to mines, cairns and stone circles. The majority of these sites are free of tree cover.
The Plan area has a rich ecology and includes a Site of Special Scientific Interest within Bellever forest at Laughter Quarry. The forests are important for a number of nationally important birds, including Red-backed shrike and nightjar.
The vast majority of the Plan area is Open Access, confirmed by the Countryside Rights of Way Act. The exception is Soussons which is de facto Open Access due to it being leased from another landowner. Bellever is the main focus of recreational activity and is a particularly nice place to picnic, walk, run or ride thanks to the river side setting, good path network and very large trees here.
The core aim of the plan is to produce woodlands with increased conservation and landscape benefits whilst maintaining a viable timber output. The long term aims of management here are to continue the substantial timber product while increasing resilience to climate, pest and disease risks, and to deliver the forest for people and nature.
The social, economic and environmental objectives of management here are:
- The continued production of sustainable and marketable woodland products.
- To conserve, maintain and enhance cultural and heritage assets, their setting and the historical environment.
- The provision and maintenance of recreation facilities.
- The diversification of woodland species and structure for greater ecological and economic resilience.
- Protect and enhance woodland and open habitats and their associated species.
- The delivery of well-designed proposals in keeping with the National Park character.
The current plan outlines management proposals including felling and restocking over several decades, with felling licence approval for operations up until 2026.
Crops in more exposed positions will continue to be managed primarily for conifer timber production under a clearfell and restock scheme. Crops in less exposed positions will be managed to continuous cover forestry prescriptions so as to create a diverse and resilient forest structure.
The Plan makes provision to remove trees required and improve the setting of heritage sites so as to enhance the rich historic environment of Dartmoor.
Implementation and maintenance of an environmental corridor system will continue to increase diversity of habitat and internal landscaping. Those on highly visible external edges will be restocked sympathetically to create a graded edge between high moor and high forest.
The planned areas of clearfelling, restocking and permanent open space creation during the ten years to 2026 are summarised in the chart below.
In addition to these defined operations, ongoing thinning and selective felling of both conifers and broadleaves will be carried out in the plan area at five to ten year intervals.
The proportions of conifer and broadleaved woodland and open space at the beginning of the plan period are shown in the bar chart. The increase in native broadleaves and open space expected within the plan period and over time is indicated in the middle and right hand columns of the chart.