Each year, a variety of conifers are sold as Christmas trees, for example, the
- Norway Spruce Picea abies
- Silver Fir Abies alba
- Nordmann Fir Abies normanniana
- Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris
and in North America
- Douglas Fir Pseudotuga menziesii and
- Balsam Fir Abies balsamea.
In autumn 2016 my wife and I visited a small wood for sale on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors. We had seen a few other sites but this held more promise as it was part moorland, part regenerating ex-forestry land. The three things that made it of particularly interest to us were that: it was only twenty minutes away from home; it had a small natural pond; and it had some open space for planting new trees. As a green person at heart, I often pick up acorns on walks and pop them in a pot. I was however running short of space and needed somewhere to plant them!
Dan, from Woodlands.co.uk, met us on site and explained that the management plan favoured planting oak trees so that made it ideal for us. After a few months of paperwork, we received the key to the padlock of the woodland gate just before Christmas. A nicer present could not have been had. Read more...
I love sitting quietly in a woodland, especially on a comfortable wooden bench. Being still and silent in a wood allows you to feel closer to nature and nature gets closer to you: when you stop trampling through a wood the animals stop feeling threatened and they come out. Birds and deer and even badgers will appear as you sit unmoving and comfortably on your home-made bench. If sited carefully, you might also be able to enjoy a panoramic view from your woodland bench.
A group of us recently decided to have a bench-making competition and four different benches were produced during the afternoon. The prize was a bottle of vintage port and the rules were simple - you had two hours to finish and you had to use materials found in the woods Read more...
Since 1960 commercial trees in the UK have become about 25% more productive. This has been achieved through selective breeding, mostly of Sitka Spruce and Scots pine where plants have been chosen for their rapid growth. It has also led to better quality timber which produces more sawlogs. Unfortunately according to the Forestry Commission's Steve Lee, no similar effort has been made with broadleaved trees so they have suffered a relative disadvantage compared to the progress with conifers. He says, "We dropped tree selection for broadleaved trees in the 1960s because it was thought to be not worthwhile."
Mature woodlands and forests populated with deciduous trees remove significant quantities of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere, locking it up in complex organic carbon compounds - such as starch, cellulose and lignin. Such compounds add to the biomass of the trees. However, come the Autumn deciduous trees shed their leaves, and in Autumn and Winter winds break off branches and twigs. These dead leaves and twigs etc contribute to the ‘litter’ on the woodland floor and the humus in the soil. This material represents a vast source of ‘locked up carbon’. Read more...
Birch is a pioneer species, that is often replaced by oak, beech or other species. After the last Ice Age, birch moved in quickly as the glaciers receded. Even now, after clearfell in almost any part of the country, birch is usually the first to appear by natural regeneration (and can act as a nurse for planted oak etc.); some refer to it as the 'forester's weed'. Birch woodland is generally “open” and the trees are often of a similar age and size. Birch regeneration is often respaced (thinned) with a clearing saw (the resulting thinnings may be used for horse jumps - like the Grand National).
However, birch woodland has mainly persisted (in the U.K.) where conditions are harsh and limit the growth of other species. Read more...
The amount of woodland in the U.K. has increased significantly in the last one hundred years. At the time of the first World War, woodland coverage was at an all time low of about 5%. The coverage of woodlands now stands at about 12% - much is in the form of coniferous plantation (established to provide a stock of useable wood and timber). Coniferous plantations were often established on poor quality / marginal land.
However, it is possible to recognise many different types of woodland in the U.K. How these are described or categorised varies. There is, for example, the Peterken system of stand types* – this is based on the presence of long established tree species. It has 12 main (and 39 subsiduary) types of woodland. Then, there is the National Vegetation Classification (the subject of a blog some time back) - this Read more...
Much has been written recent in recent years about the ‘dangers’ posed to our native flora & ecosystems by ‘alien’ invasive species. Introduced species such Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), and Rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum) have been cited as ‘drivers’ of ecosystem change – alongside habitat loss, pollution and over-exploitation.
However, voices have been raised to express concern over certain native species that can grow rapidly producing large amount of biomass (or indeed necromass – think bracken dying down in late autumn) and how they may be impacting on our flora, particularly plants of the woodland herb or field layer. Read more...