Case study – Kingston Wood.

Managing a SSSI woodland with game interests

Kingston Wood Estate is a historic estate situated on the Cambridgeshire/Hertfordshire border and encompasses a significant area of important Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland, much of which is designated SSSI. When the Metherell family acquired Kingston Wood in 2011, they immediately set about improving the quality of the arable land for wildlife and for game by implementing a Higher Level Stewardship Scheme. Shooting played an important role in the planning of this scheme and the shoot quietly developed as the habitat improved. Sadly the woodland had been undermanaged for many years and the lack of management, combined with high numbers of both fallow deer and muntjac, as well as grey squirrels, meant it was in a very poor state.

Implementing a woodland management plan to arrest the decline and begin to restore the woodland was a big task, particularly given the SSSI and sensitive nature of the site. By working closely with Natural England and the Forestry Commission throughout the preparation of the plan, Oakbank’s woodland advisor, Karen Russell, was able to address their concerns and design a plan that was good for the woodland as well as ticking the boxes for gamekeeper, Iain McKenzie and delivering the required tonnage of woodchip for the recently installed biomass boiler. Iain moved to the Estate in early 2018 and immediately set about improving the quality of the shooting by working with the contract farmer and utilising the HLS scheme to deliver first class cover crops in well-positioned spots but to take the shoot to the next level it was essential to improve the woodland. The consultation and approval of a plan of this nature typically takes several months but due to the complexity of the site and the shooting interests, Karen had to apply for a standalone felling licence to begin works in advance of the plan approval. This meant that some thinning, coppicing and ride widening could take place in key areas identified by Iain and Karen managed to obtain permission for Iain to build a new release pen.

We were then able to engage a local forestry contractor Red Kite Rural Services to begin the works in advance of the management plan approval.

Now that the new Woodland Management Plan has finally been approved, the long-term future of the woodland at Kingston Wood should be assured and the new works programme will deliver significant improvements for biodiversity, for longevity, for timber quality and for the shoot. And Oakbank will be on hand to supervise the works to ensure they are carried out in the most effective and sympathetic way.

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