Alvecote Wood 2013
With support from the Forestry Commission Woodland Management Plan and EWGS grant support, these owners managed the woodlands primarily for wildlife and biodiversity and for use by community groups
Owners and directors Stephen Briggs and SarahWalters bought Alvecote Wood in 2007. At the time the 4.5 hectares of predominantly oak Ancient Semi Natural Wood (ASNW) had been neglected for around 15 years. It was also over-fertile due to overgrazing in the 20th century.
They also bought an adjacent 3.6 hectares arable field which they planted as a new woodland in 2010-11. Known as Betty’s Wood, this area provides links from Alvecote Wood to other nearby areas of conservation.
Alvecote Wood, Robey’s Lane, Warwickshire B78 1AS
Excellence in Forestry Awards Winner: Small Woodlands 2013
The owners carry out most of the woodland management themselves, under an FC Woodland Management Plan and EWGS grant support, with occasional help from directly supervised contractors.
The woodlands are managed primarily for wildlife and biodiversity and for use by community groups. They have been adopted as a Local Wildlife Site and Site of Importance for Nature Conservation by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.
Managing the trees
Judges were impressed by the transformation of the original woodland from heavily neglected to exemplar woodland with good natural regeneration of oak. Coppicing has been re-established, and the owners have also been actively cultivating acorns and cloning.
In Betty’s Wood, the owners have aimed to extend the natural mix within Alvecote Wood using predominantly oak, birch and other native broadleaves.
Sound silviculture is being practised. The need to control competing vegetation in planted areas and where there is natural regeneration has been recognised. Herbicides have been effectively used. Quite often, small woodland owners are reluctant to use herbicides because of a perceived ill-effect on the environment. Given the wealth of bird and insect life judges saw at Alvecote, there is no such problem here.
Within Alvecote Wood, the owners have not been afraid to cut down trees, where prudent, to allow additional light into the woodland and encourage natural regeneration and wildlife.
Managing for timber is not a priority, but some timber craft products are now produced and sold on open days.
Managing for wildlife
A proactive approach has been taken to creating additional ponds, establishing wildflower meadows, and installing bird boxes. Advice has been sought from a wide range of nature and conservation groups.
As a result, existing species have thrived, and new species have been encouraged. The woodland now supports a number of red-listed bird species and locally rare butterflies.
The owners have plans to continue this work, linking in with the Anker Valley Project, which focuses on nature conservation in an area between Nuneaton and Tamworth.
Benefitting the landscape
The woods are visible from the Coventry Canal and from a public road. Planting has avoided straight lines to provide a natural blend into the local landscape.
Managing for access
There are monthly Open Days from spring through to autumn with guided tours, displays and craft stalls. The owners open the wood to scouts, schools, wildlife groups and community groups for general visits as well as just for camping. They are happy to open for any interested group upon request.
The owners have been very grateful to the Forestry Commission, the Warwickshire WildlifeTrust, the Pond Conservation Trust and many others for advice and support throughout the project. Find out more at www.alvecotewood.co.uk
The 2013 Small Woodland Award was sponsored by Wood-Mizer.
Category judges were Tim Sawyer and RobGuest, who have both held senior posts in the Forestry Commission in England.