Maintenance work in Oakley Wood – an update

Nick Feledziak, who is managing the current operations in Oakley Wood for Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, presented the following report to Warwick District Council just recently, and WWT and WDC are happy for me to reproduce it here.

It does reiterate some of what has already been posted on this site, but it’s an excellent summary of what is being done, why it’s being done and what we can expect in the future. It may well cover some unanswered questions you may have, and probably some questions you’d not thought of. Well worth reading.

Over to you, Nick…

The work has been ongoing from November and is due to be finished by the end of this month. The contractor was selected and contracted by ourselves following a standard tender process. The cost of the work including reinstatement has been covered by the timber sales. A surplus income will be ring-fenced for reinvestment back into Oakley Wood. Reasonable timber prices were determined with help from our forestry consultant and we receive a varying price dependent on the product the wood is used for. The pine is going mainly for fencing and animal bedding, and the poplar is going for kindling as is less valuable as a timber. The extent of the felling was determined by ourselves with consultation with WDC Green Space team, our forestry consultant, the Forestry Commission and using best practice as determined from woodland management guidance and our own in house expertise. The woodland is being thinned by a maximum of 30% removal of trees where required as is standard with a thinning license, click here to get all the details. There are 9 x 30m wide felling coupes within the thinning area, where it was believed there would not be good natural regeneration of broadleaved trees due to the density of pines. We will be planting up these areas with broadleaved trees once the work is complete.   All the processes have been signed off by WDC Green space team, and open book accounting is in place.

The work was progressing well and I was satisfied with how the contractor has been working before I left for the Christmas Break. Having been to site to check it following the winter break we have noticed a few safety issues that have been flagged up for rectification with the contractor. We noted some signs had been ripped down and these are to be replaced by the contractor. There is some rutting on the North and East of the reserve which includes points where machinery has crossed walking routes and the timber stacking area/loading bay. These areas have now been closed to the public today through the closure of two paths, and will be reopened once rectification happens later this month. The timber stacking/ loading area has suffered due to the wet weather, this area will be restored as part of the reinstatement, and taped off from the public this morning. We have also identified a hanging tree and some fallen trees due to the recent gales within these areas which are due to be cleared. Outside of these are we were satisfied that there are no safety concerns other than the ones mentioned. There are significant areas of mud where machinery has not crossed the path; this is due to the high footfall Oakley Wood receives in the winter, and current weather conditions during winter. The dedicated extraction routes were planned in order to minimise soil compaction, which is inevitable when carrying out work of this nature. Where possible  the routes do not use the managed path network, some crossing of paths is unfortunately unavoidable, but has been kept to a minimum , and any rutting will be repaired towards the end of the work once all the timber has been moved.

We were satisfied logs and brash are not being stacked on any of the officially recognised and managed paths, however there are likely to be desire lines that have been blocked inside the woodland compartments. Brash will be maintained as vital dead wood habitat, for which 40% of woodland wildlife is dependent on and stores carbon as it becomes future forest soils. The alternative would be to burn it, releasing carbon in the process. We are satisfied that it is not dense enough to limit natural tree regeneration or important vegetation communities.

Finally, in regards to carbon, to provide any form of useful carbon storage, woodlands need to exist and be protected in the long term, not just in the present. We recognise this, and sustainable management that protects and enhances our woodlands is the basis of our long term vision in our woodland strategy. Oakley wood is made up of mainly even aged plantation and as such it is not resilient to change and we need to encourage natural regeneration of trees and structural diversity through thinning to provide light and other resources for the next generation of trees and make the woodland resilient to pathogens and other changes. The rate at which carbon is removed through tree felling is less than the rate at which it is stored in the trees, soils and other organic matter throughout the woodland. Any timber products coming out of the wood are potentially reducing or replacing the need for activities that use fossil fuels. Management can increase carbon storage in a woodland by reducing competition for large trees (allowing them to grow even larger), and by increasing organic activity in the soil and the establishment of new trees. Furthermore, the tree felling work that adds resilience and wildlife benefit to our woodlands does not result in deforestation. This way the woodland will not only contribute to tackling climate change now, but they will be around to do so over centuries to come.

One thought on “Maintenance work in Oakley Wood – an update”

  1. Great information it’s just a shame that we now have to wait a considerable amount of time time until we will to be able to enjoy this once beautiful blue bell filled wood with the piece and tranquility it once offered. while we wait we will have to see the surrounding roads and traffic including in places the the M40 through the now reduced canopy and the huge amount of increased road noise and the smell of diesel fumes. I hope it will be worth it and the animals which were once abundant will return. I suppose only time will tell.

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