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. Iain moved to the Estate in early 2018 and aside from delivering a first class shooting season in 2018/19, largely through well-positioned cover crops, his priority has been to improve the woods to help better hold and present game. As the consultation and approval of a plan of this nature typically takes several months, Karen soon realised that unless she applied for a standalone felling licence there would be nothing in place to begin works this spring. So, whilst still preparing the overall WMP, she applied for and received a felling licence for some thinning, coppicing and ride widening in key areas identified by Iain.
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.
Ultimately, the new Woodland Management Plan will deliver significant improvements to the woodland for timber quality, for biodiversity, for longevity 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.
Oakbank recently held their Team Meeting here to show all the members of the team - including Hector what is happening onsite on a glorious day in February 2019