What's it all about?
In May 1998, The Royal Forestry Society acquired 48hectares (117 acres) of arable farmland adjacent to the village of Battram, in North West Leicestershire. Generous support came from the National Forest Company, North West Leicestershire District Council, Leicestershire County Council and the Rural Development Commission.
Situated in the heart of the new National Forest, with the support of local residents, the RFS challenge is to create a model multi-benefit woodland there from scratch. The new Battram Wood will be a flagship of how to create and run profitable woodlands for future generations in crowded lowland Britain. The site demonstrates best practice in planning, establishing and running woodland with wildlife conservation, landscaping, access and interpretation as integral components.
The story so far
A national design competition was run in 1998 to select the most imaginative yet appropriate plan for this high profile undertaking. The forester's 3 Rs were vital in choosing the plantings - the Right Trees in the Right Places and for the Right Reasons.
Funding for planting and nurturing the young woodland comes through normal grant schemes available to any local landowner. Approved by the Forestry Commission, the project is supported through the Woodland Grant and Farm Woodland Premium Schemes.
Over the winters of 98-99, 99-00 and 2000-01, over 80,000 saplings were planted with a mixture of broadleaves and conifers, deciduous and evergreen trees, and native and introduced species. Fast growing poplars and cricket bat willows are grown on the wetter areas. Most trees are planted as small bare-rooted saplings from carefully selected nursery stock, using local provenance wherever feasible. They are planted in late winter when still dormant but as spring approaches.
Trees are all planted by hand. Most of them are on a 2.4m x 1.8m grid system. The oak and yew Millennium Grove are at 2.5m spacing. Poplars are planted at 8m x 8m spacings and the cricket bat willows are 9m apart. A group of 350 young English oaks and yews forms the Millennium Circle at the focal point of Battram Wood.
A special feature is a group of rare native Black Poplar, the subject of a special conservation action plan. Landscaping is fundamental - wherever possible plantings follow the natural contours. Mixtures of broadleaved trees and shrubs are planted along the ride sides to improve visual appearance and to benefit wildlife.
On 5th November 2005, the RFS joined forces with The Woodland Trust and the Marie Curie Cancer Fund to plant a new commemorative wood of 600 saplings. Those were planted by RFS members and local people and 10,000 wild daffodil bulbs - propagated in nurseries - were put in.
As in a garden, weeding and mowing are necessary to help the saplings get started. If there is damage from brown hares, fencing or protecting individual trees in tubes or shelters may be needed. A fifth of the area will be left as open space, providing glades and paths. Walkers are welcome on the extensive ride system and the existing footpaths, providing 4,300m of wide pedestrian access routes. Cycle tracks link with other long-distance cycle ways such as Sustrans. The power lines that criss-crossed the skyline have gone underground for visual and safety reasons. But a few poles remain as perches for birds of prey.
A whole variety of new habitats are evolving, enhancing the biodiversity. The pond and brook are managed as wetland habitats. The woodlands will be managed on a sustainable basis. Silvicultural operations like thinning will remove weak, diseased or overcrowded trees, leaving the rest to grow on. Creating a new woodland takes time, skill, patience, faith and funds. As the saplings grow, a new wooded landscape will begin to emerge. Time-scales are long in forestry. The first crops to be harvested will be cricket bat willows at 20 years followed by poplars. Cherries and ash may take 50 years to grow to a useful size, pines and other conifers 60 years and oak over a century.
Battram Wood will provide multiple benefits: raw material for the wood-based products we all use but often take for granted - paper, cardboard, chipboard, MDF, bio-fuel, timber for houses and for furniture; new and diverse wildlife habitats; landscape enhancement; a filter against air pollutants; a sink for removing greenhouse gases; and a place for this and future generations of people to enjoy.
The new wood is 3 miles (5km) due south of Coalville in North West Leicestershire. Battram Wood is open to the public during the day. The entrance gate to Battram Wood is at Grid Reference 426 093 on the Ordnance Survey Map Landranger 140 (Leicester).
Take the side road into Battram Village off of the B585, Ellistown to Nailstone road, south of Ellistown. Drive through the village, through the field gate and along to the small car park. More: The National Forest covers 200 square miles in Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire. This new woodland is one of many being created there. More about the different trees is in Trees by Species.
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