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Arnside and Silverdale Forest Plan

Plan approved 2013 - 2023


The four woodlands included in this plan are as follows:

Hagg Wood 19 ha; Middlebarrow 22 ha; Underlaid 132 ha; Marble Quarry 58 ha totalling: 221 ha

The freehold of all these woodlands is held by the neighbouring Dallam Estate. In 1962, the Forestry Commission acquired them on a 199 year lease.

Historically, these sites would appear to have been managed on a coppice system, as were the surrounding woodlands. They would have been an important part of the local economy, supplying, amongst other products, charcoal for the Furness iron works. Prior to acquisition by the Forestry Commission, part of Burntbarrow Plantation had been planted with a crop of European larch in 1914, and Corsican pine in 1932. Much standing timber in the woodlands, including hardwoods and conifers, was reserved by Dallam Estate to be sold separately, although some of this was later acquired by the Forestry Commission. Initially, the Forestry Commission managed the sites for timber production. Areas of bare ground were planted with Corsican pine, and areas of hazel and birch scrub were under-planted with beech with a western red cedar nurse. Some areas were cleared and planted with blocks of conifers such as European and hybrid larch, and Norway spruce. Good quality oak and areas of small-leaved lime were retained as were the groves of yew woodland. Some areas of the native hazel-ash woodland community remained unaltered.

Significant areas of semi-natural woodland survived this intervention, and much of the recent management has been aimed at reversing this process and re-establishing semi-natural habitats. This has involved small scale clear felling, as well as thinning the red cedar nurse crop. At Underlaid wood some trial areas have been coppiced mainly along rides and also along the wayleave for the electricity powerline.

The woods are all contained within the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The particular features of landscape interest in the AONB are the outcrops of Carboniferous limestone, with well-developed limestone pavements; the mosaic of contrasting landscape types; the extensive sandbanks along the coast and the dramatic views over Morecambe Bay.

The Arnside and Silverdale AONB includes a range of internationally valued and protected wildlife resources, including a variety of limestone habitats, such as lowland mixed ash woodland, species-rich lowland limestone grassland and limestone heath. Habitats present include semi-natural woodland types, calcareous grassland, screes and limestone pavements, both wooded and open. They support significant populations of nationally rare and uncommon plants and have a notable invertebrate fauna.

The majority of Underlaid Wood (excluding Burntbarrow Plantation) is contained within the Underlaid SSSI and the majority of Marble Quarry falls within the Marble Quarry and Hale Fell SSSI. Middlebarrow Wood borders but does not include the Middlebarrow SSSI. All these three SSSIs also form part of the Morecambe Bay Limestones Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

Marble Quarry and Underlaid Wood are well served by public rights of way. Middlebarrow has one path running along the bottom of the wood and access is much more restricted in Hagg Wood, with just a short section of path running along one edge. Due to the conditions of the lease, it has not been possible to allow a general open access or to provide permissive paths in these woodlands.

Several archaeological sites are recorded in these woodlands. In Hagg Wood, there are records of axe hammers and a brooch being found. Marble Quarry contains the quarry itself as well as old Rigg and furrow formations. It is also part of the old Beetham Hall medieval/post medieval deer park. Burntbarrow Plantation includes an old well, a long barrow and the feature known as the Dog Hole cave, thought to be a ritual shaft.

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  • Protect the limestone pavements and their associated geological features
  • Maintain and enhance the botanical interest of the limestone pavements
  • Continue restoration of the ancient woodland sites
  • Bring the SSSIs further towards favourable condition
  • Produce timber and coppice products on a small scale where possible and appropriate

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What we'll do

Four different management zones have been identified and are marked on the concept map (see Forest Plan). These are as follows:

Selective felling zone: Burntbarrow Plantation and the north end of Marble Quarry

Thinning zone: Underlaid Wood and Hagg Wood

Habitat management zone: The main part of Marble Quarry

Recovery zone: Middlebarrow Wood

Selective felling zone

There are very few patches of conifer plantation remaining to be felled. These are in the north end of Marble Quarry (sub-compartments 556d and 556e) and Burntbarrow Plantation (550g and 550f). Subcompartment 556d (Marble Quarry) is mainly European larch, and has a well-developed understorey of native woodland species. The larch will be removed in the 2012-2016 felling period 556e (Marble Quarry) is mixed conifers, including Western Red Cedar and Yew. The red cedar will be removed gradually over a period of time rather than in one felling operation.

550g (Burntbarrow) is European larch of an unusually good size and quality for this area. The proposal is to fell this in the second felling phase, 2017 – 2021. This is of a lower priority that removing the remaining western red cedar in thinning operations. 550f (Burntbarrow) is Corsican pine with a good understorey of native species. The pine will be felled in a series of thinning operations. Logistically, this is a challenging site as the trees are growing on a limestone plateau with no access for machinery. This could potentially be a horse-logging job.

Thinning zone

This area has had the majority of conifers removed in previous operations. The sites have recovered well and are now ready for their next intervention. Thinning here will vary in intensity and will focus on habitat improvement and native woodland restoration. Non-native broadleaves, mainly beech and sycamore, will be removed in preference to native species, but it is not considered feasible or desirable to remove them altogether. Thinning will also give the opportunity to fell remaining conifers (mainly western red cedar) and to remove young conifer regeneration.

Habitat management zone

Most of Marble Quarry is now clear of conifers and the focus can switch to management of semi-natural habitats. This will include the introduction of a coppicing programme and the maintenance of open areas, particularly where associated with the limestone pavements. Key partners in this work will be Butterfly Conservation, who are looking at creating a strategic network of butterfly habitats in the Arnside area and Natural England.

Recovery zone

A large proportion of Middlebarrow Wood has recently had its conifer over storey removed. Natural regeneration, mainly of native species, has started to occur across the site. Over the next few years, no major works are planned here, but the site will continue to be monitored for regeneration


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Last updated: 22nd April 2017


OS Grid ref: SD488788

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