Now the forest is used by so many we will need to do more trail maintenance than ever before. To keep costs down, and to get people involved with the Park, we use volunteers wherever possible, and supply them with materials and tools. That way, people who use the trails have more input into their construction – what works, what doesn’t, and how we can raise standards. We aim to cover the cost of maintenance by using income generated from the car park.
Play equipment is given a thorough inspection on a weekly basis, although we do a visual check daily. Once a year RoSPA visit to ensure the equipment is still up to scratch.
We also host a number of events organised by ourselves, the CCANW, and by local groups. You can now download an application form if you wish to hold an event [PDF 115KB]. This ensures that large events don’t conflict with each other, that we have sufficient capacity in our car park, and that the route isn’t planned for an area where we are carrying out work!
We also have a dedicated team of Rangers on-site seven days a week.
We are always keen to get your feedback so that we can keep on improving.
Conservation is always at the forefront of our minds when planning anything in the Park, as several areas are protected as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). This status comes about if an area is considered by Natural England to contain flora, fauna, geological or physiographical features of particular interest to science. In the case of Haldon Forest the designation was made in 1992 because of our nationally important breeding population of Nightjars, the range of butterfly and moth species, and the array of bird of prey species.
Buller’s Hill Quarry, just behind our offices, was also designated a SSSI in 1976, because of it’s excellent exposure of the ‘Haldon Gravels’, from the early Palaeogene age (as much as 65 million years old).
As part of our responsibility for the SSSIs we have agreed management plans with Natural England.
Most of the conifers at Haldon were planted from 1920 onwards, to fulfil the Forestry Commission’s role of providing sustainable home-grown timber.
We plan our thinning, felling, and replanting schedule by drawing up a Forest Design Plan. We split the forest up into areas called ‘coupes’, and ensure they are felled in a sequence that gives a variety of ages of trees. This provides different habitats, which benefit different species in different ways. Each Forest Design Plan has to be approved by the Forestry Commission and statutory consultees, such as county councils, before we can carry it out.
Many of our woods are dedicated as open access under the Countryside Rights of Way Act (CRoW). Before we can start work in these areas we must apply to the Countryside Agency, so that we can close the area for a period for public safety.
Thinning is carried out periodically during the life of a coupe. It involves removing some of the trees, to allow the remaining trees more space, light, and nutrients, so they can grow taller and stronger.
A coupe is felled when the remaining trees have reached maturity. Felling is carried out by a tracked vehicle called a harvester, and the timber is loaded onto another tracked vehicle called a forwarder. The harvester can fell a tree, remove the branches, and cut it into measured lengths in about thirty seconds.
The harvester and the forwarder are heavy vehicles, weighing several tonnes. Harvesters can fell 400 tonnes of timber per week, about 15 times faster than a man with a chainsaw. To distribute their weight, especially on soft ground, the harvester operator lays the removed branches, or ‘brash’ in front of the vehicle, and drives over them as he moves through the forest. The timber is stacked in small rough piles for the forwarder driver to collect. The forwarder then takes the timber out to the roadside, and separates it into product, length, and diameter categories. On steep or very soft ground timber may be extracted by a tractor with a winch.
Thinning produces little brash, and this is often left on the ground to rot, and provide nutrients for the remaining trees. Felling however can produce a lot of brash, and once felling is completed, it may be up to a metre deep. New trees planted into this will have a 99% failure rate as it is not proper soil, so it is essential to clear it. It may be raked and burnt, or displaced into rows by scarifying or raking. For our Heathland Grazing Project it was essential to prevent nutrient enrichment of the soil by rotting brash. Heathland is the result of a poor nutrient base caused by grazing, certain soil types, and other factors, so to start mimicking these conditions we had to burn all the brash created by felling.
Our forest roads are engineered to handle the weight and volume of harvesting traffic, including timber lorries. However, after harvesting they often need remedial work. This is carried out as soon as possible, meaning other users, such as walkers, cyclists, and horse riders, get the benefit of these wide well-surfaced tracks, even if harvesting isn’t due to be carried out again for several years.
Most ‘clear-fell’ sites at Haldon are replanted within two years, always with conifer species. Some sites are allowed to remain open, and some are allowed to become ‘successive’ habitat, where our native broadleaf species are allowed to naturally re-colonise. If this doesn’t happen within five years we will carry out enrichment planting of these species, and weed out any self-seeded conifer.
Natural regeneration has the advantage of saving money on replanting. However, it can be more successful in some areas than others, and still requires some maintenance in the form of weeding, cleaning, and re-spacing, and enrichment planting where regeneration has failed.