New Tree Planting
Most of the new tree planting undertaken over the last 20 years has taken place on farms and has been in the form of new mixed broadleaved woodland. This new planting has been largely stimulated by the Forestry Commission’s Woodland Grant Scheme and the supplementary Farm Woodland Premium Scheme. Motivations include improving shooting and screening land from roads, an issue which is of concern to the Conservation Board given the potential impacts on future landscape character and views.
Defra June Survey data indicates that the area of woodland on farms has increased by 3,610ha over the period 1990 to 2007. Although year-on-year comparisons of areas must be treated with caution (due to changes in the number and source of survey responses), there also appears to have been a steady increase in woodland on farm holdings as a percentage of total agricultural area from 4.3% in 1990 to 6.1% in 2007, see Table 3-3. This is in line with regional and national trends over the same period – woodland on farm holdings as a proportion of total agricultural area has increased from 2.32% to 3.29% in England.
Cotswolds Ancient Woodland Project
The South West Regional Forestry Framework 2005, identified four Ancient Woodland Priority Areas (AWPAs): Greater Exmoor, Dartmoor, Forest of Dean and Cotswolds. A fifth AWPA, Cranborne Chase, was subsequently added.
Ancient Woodland Projects had been established in the Dartmoor and Greater Exmoor AWPAs and the Forestry Commission was keen to set up a similar project in the Cotswolds. The Cotswolds Ancient Woodland Project, co-funded by the Cotswolds Conservation Board and Forestry Commission was launched in June 2008 and a leaflet produced to promote the project and the enhanced grant rates available through the English Woodland Grant Scheme (EWGS).
The aim of the project is: To promote the Cotswolds Ancient Woodland Project and the grant aid available to woodland owners, seek the restoration of plantations to native broadleaf cover and to generate EWGS applications within the Cotswolds Ancient Woodland Priority Area.
Through a tendering process a six week contract was agreed with Pryor and Rickett Silviculture in February 2009. 220 woodland owners and agents were contacted by letter, 167 follow up telephone calls were made leading to 28 site visits/meetings. The result was 11 approved EWGS agreements covering 223.69ha of ancient woodland with a total agreement value of £256,335.00.
The short contract was a great success, with a clear recommendation for some form of continuation. The Woodland Trust joined the project and with financial contributions from the Board, Forestry Commission and Woodland Trust, Peter Kelsall was seconded part-time from the Forestry Commission in August 2009 for 12 months. This was extended for a further 12 months to August 2011 with plans to continue a part-time project officer to December 2011, although it is hoped this can be extended to March 2012.
Initially, time was spent on sorting through various databases to identify woodland not included in the EWGS and identifying their ownership. The emphasis then shifted to contacting woodland owners, advising them of woodland management and grant availability and assisting woodland owners with preparing EWGS applications.
Since August 2009, the project has directly:
- Identified and contacted 63 woodland owners and 25 agents
- Generated 10 approved schemes covering 135.4 ha of woodland. The value of the EWGS agreements to date is £113,039.00
- A further 3 EWGS application are awaiting approval covering 8.07ha and worth £18,885.00
- In total, the Cotswolds Ancient Woodland project has directly generated 21 EWGS schemes covering 367.16ha of ancient woodland worth a total of £388,259.00.
However, there have been other successful EWGS applications from within the Cotswolds Ancient Woodland Priority Area (CAWPA) not made by project staff but could well be the result of promoting the project, the grants available and contact by project staff. If these are included, the grand total for the CAWPA, including the above, is 102 EWGS covering 1,270.36ha worth £1,441,219.42.00. This includes 92ha of Planted Ancient Woodland Site (PAWS) restoration.
The CAWP has been a great success and clearly demonstrates the value of pro-actively identifying and contacting woodland owners. The project has also identified that some woodland owners will take time to decide to apply for EWGS, anything up to 2 years or even more after an initial contact or meeting.
The legacy of the project will remain in the form of 10 year agreements under the EWGS generated by the project. Other EWGS applications may well come forward as a result of the project over the following 2-3 years as it has been observed by Forestry Commission Officers that some woodland owners delay applications after a ‘gestation period’ following an advisory visit.