The Estate’s woods are located upon the limestone and boulder clay plateau that forms the prominent northern edge of the ancient Rockingham Forest, as it rises above the Welland Valley at Harringworth. They extend to almost 200 hectares (500 acres) and are an important remnant of this favoured Norman royal hunting forest, which today is recognised as a discrete landscape of around 200squares miles, lying between Stamford and Kettering and the Rivers Welland and Nene.
In keeping with their wider setting, the Estate’s woods represent both continuity and change. Most of the woods are relatively large, near contiguous blocks of ancient semi-natural woodland, dominated by W8* ash and oak with hazel on the prevailing boulder clay. Pockets of W10** woodland with oak, silver birch, bracken and bluebells pick out cells of free draining, sandy soils on exposed ironstone outcrops.
These ancient woods have remained in continuous woodland cover since at least 1600AD and are a link back to the medieval forest. The trees within them range in age, but there are a number of veteran trees that are protected from excessive competition from younger neighbours.
Much of this woodland was managed as coppice with standards until the early twentieth century, thereafter being ‘stored’ or allowed to revert back to high forest. Typically, these woods are now managed for oak timber and ash firewood, the proceeds from which are reinvested back into sustaining the woods. They are also important habitats for wildlife and are designated Local Wildlife Sites in agreement with the Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust (BCNWT). As such, they are managed to enhance their wildlife value.
The balance of the Estate’s woods are mainly on land previously quarried for ironstone in the mid to late 20th century. As part of the aftercare programme, the species mix is more diverse. Native species have been planted, but the woods are dominated by conifers and exotic alders, both able to cope with the disturbed ground on which they were planted. Perhaps unexpectedly, these disturbed areas provide ecological diversity, with the free draining, alkaline overburden on which the trees were planted, supporting diverse calcareous grassland with rare plants such as bee orchids.
The ironstone woods are now well established and very shortly areas dominated by alder will be coppiced to provide renewable wood chip to feed the Estate’s two wood fuel boilers, producing sustainable heat and hot water at Harringworth Lodge and Bulwick Hall. Alder regrowth has the added benefit of not being palatable to the large herd of wild fallow deer that roam the forest.
The Estate follows a sustainable woodland management plan, which is regularly reviewed and approved by the Forestry Commission in compliance with the UK Forestry Standard.
In addition, the Estate manages its woods under an independent Forestry Stewardship Council woodland certification scheme, administered by the Soil Association, again to demonstrate long-term sustainability.
Woodland management must provide continuity and change; continuity to allow slow growing trees to develop and mature, change to address new challenges such as developing diseases and climate change. The woods hold great value to the Estate and to society at large and so their management strives to protect and enhance differing interests in balance with each other.
The Estate's forestry consultant is Graham Garratt of Isis Forestry.
Graham Garratt, Isis Forestry http://www.isisforestry.co.uk/
Work: 01858 565 565 Mobile: 07970 252 134
- W8 = National Vegetation Classification Woodland Type 8 Fraxinus excelsior – Acer campestre – Mercurialis perennis woodland (ash-field maple-dogs mercury) (Joint Nature Conservation Committee, 2001)
** W10 = Quercus robur – Pteridium aquilinum – Rubus fruticosus woodland (pedunculate oak – bracken – bramble) (JNCC, 2001)