Slaley Forest is within the Hamsterley Beat of North England Forest District. The forest occupies an area of 508ha to the south of the village of Slaley in Northumberland. The freehold of the forest was purchased by the Forestry Commission in 1930 with the exception of the mineral rights which were retained by the previous owner. Currently 14ha is leased to Ladycross Quarry.
The forest comprises predominantly conifer plantation with a combination of first and second rotation crops and the process of restructuring was initiated through the period of the previous plan.
The current species composition is mostly pure conifer, a mixture of spruce, pine and larch, with Sitka spruce dominant reflecting the initial primary aim of producing a timber resource.
No statutory sites of conservation interest are present within the forest (either biological or archaeological), though the Muggleswick, Stanhope & Edmundbyers commons & Blanchland moors SSSI borders the forest to the South.
The wood is notable as a breeding site for Nightjars (Caprimulgus europaeus) which utilise the open areas associated with clearfelling. The mosaic of habitats created by the clearfelling program is therefore critical to the long-term presence of Nightjars within the forest. Red squirrels are also present within the forest and local area and Slaley is one of the 17 red squirrel reserves in England.
Though there is little formal provision for recreation, there are several rights of way running through the forest, and it is open to public access on foot, horse and bicycle and as such a popular resource for residents of the surrounding area. A short sculpture trail begins at the eastern entrance to the forest.
There are no Scheduled Ancient Monuments within the forest, however, a significant number of unscheduled sites exist within the area of the plan which are a mixture of boundary and standing stones.
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, particularly maintaining sufficient suitable habitat for the breeding population of nightjars.
- Increase the extent of mixed broadleaved woodland.
- The upper forest boundary will be realigned post harvesting to achieve better integration with adjacent moorland with the planting of open woodland habitat.
- Improve the external attractiveness of the woodland through restructuring and choice of species and silvicultural systems.
- Maintenance of long-term tree cover in the foreground of the wood facing Slaley village through employing CCF on the northern edge.
- 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 as it moves into its next rotation. By the end of this rotation, it is anticipated that a substantial area of mixed conifer woodland will have been established and the range of conifer species will have been extended. The mosaic of open ground critical to the success of the breeding nightjar population will continue but there will also be a wider range of management options available. These will include a continuation of timber production from mixed stands but the presence of seed-bearing stands will also offer the possibility of further extension of continuous cover management.
The current plan outlines management proposals including felling and restocking over several decades, with felling licence approval for operations up until 2025.
The areas due to be felled and restocked during the ten years to 2025 are summarised in the table below. The restocking figure includes some previously felled area.
The proportions of spruce, other 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.