Woodlands Planted for Resilience

Future Proofing: Innovative Woodland Planting

Primary management objectives for Nursery Wood are to develop a woodland that is resilient; will produce valuable timber; is rich in fauna and flora; is accessible and can be enjoyed by the local community.

Nursery Wood, Dunsby, Bourne, Lincolnshire.

The 1.1ha Nursery Wood was planted in 2008 on former agricultural land next to owner Hugh Dorrington’s Aveland Nurserywhich specialises in growing trees and shrubs from seed. Primary management objectives for Nursery Wood are to develop a woodland that is resilient; will produce valuable timber; is rich in fauna and flora; is accessible and can be enjoyed by the local community. In 2017 the wood won gold in the RFS Excellence in Forestry Small and Farm Woodlands Awards.

Innovative Planting

Local soils are a fairly heavy/medium loam that retains moisture well. Hugh has planted more than 30 species in intimate mixes in a spiral pattern. This creates flexibility as trees face unknown challenges from pests, diseases and environmental change in future decades.

Unlike block planting, if any one species is fatally impacted in the future, the overall wood canopy will continue as other trees take their place. Understorey species shade timber trees, encouraging straight and clean stems, and create a delightful ‘natural’ woodscape to walk through.

By including a number of potentially high-value timber species within mixes, management can steer the composition of the wood in the direction of the most profitable markets as these develop.

Woodland Edge Mix

Hugh has planted the two outer rings of his spiral pattern with a Woodland Edge mix, planting 2-4 of the same species together.

He aims for the wood edge to be an attractive welcome to the wood for local people who use it, and importantly for pollinator insects and birds.

Shrubs and wood edge trees were chosen to provide continuous flowering from February to late June, and many produce berries and fruits. Hugh is considering adding garden privet and buddleia for the summer butterflies.

Woodland Trees

Woodland Trees were planted as an intimate mixture. First, potted trees were scattered over the site. Then half the bare-rooted woodland species were mixed together in one planting bag and the other half in another planting bag.

The first and third circuits of the spiral were planted at 2.5 x 2.5m spacing from the first bag. The second and fourth circuits were planted from the second bag, and so on. Three grassy rides meeting in the middle are just visible in the photo above.

The main potential timber trees are pedunculate and sessile oak with ash, cherry, and wild service trees. Understory trees include hazel, field maple and hornbeam. The approach can be scaled up for larger woodland by planting individual compartments along similar lines.

Provenance and costs

Hugh collects seed from recognised local sources. Acorns for the wood were collected from oaks at nearby Grimsthorpe Castle. Other seed was collected from local sources where possible and grown on in the adjacent Aveland Trees Nursery.

Establishment costs at £2,400 per hectare and ongoing maintenance costs are no more than for traditional plantings.

Nursery Wood Tree Species

Pedunculate OakQuercus robur20
Sessile OakQuercus petraea5
HazelCorylus avellana25
AshFraxinus excelsior10
Field MapleAcer campestre15
HornbeamCarpinus betulus8
Wild CherryPrunus avium4
AlderAlnus glutinosa3
Silver BirchBetula pendula3
Crab AppleMalus sylvestris2
Goat WillowSalix caprea1
Small-leaved LimeTilia cordata)
Wild PearPyrus communis)
Wild ServiceSorbus torminalis)
ElmUlmus minor)
Wych ElmUlmus glabra)
AspenPopulus tremula3
BeechFagus sylvatica)
Sweet ChestnutCastanea sativa)
Coastal RedwoodSequoia sempervirens)
Giant RedwoodSequoia dendron)
Woodland Edge%
Midland HawthornCrataegus laevigata15
Guelder RoseViburnum opulus15
HazelCorylus avellana15
SpindleEuonymus europaeus10
Wild PrivetLigustrum vulgare10
Garden PrivetLigustrum ovalifolium2
Myrobalan PlumPrunus cerasifera4
Wild BullacePrunus insititia10
DogwoodCornus sanguinea15
Purging BuckthornRhamnus catharticus2
BuddleiaBuddleia davidii2

Pest Control

Oaks are reaching a size and age when they become vulnerable to grey squirrels, and traps are being used. Deer damage is mainly from muntjac. Where coppicing has taken place, cuttings are left over the stumps to prevent new growth from being nibbled.


For the first two years, the whole site was mown and weeds controlled with a spot spray of Glyphosate around each tree. The spiral pattern makes mowing a continuous operation, with no need to turn around at the end of each row. In subsequent years just the main rides were kept mown.

In year 8, a system of footpaths was established following the spiral planting lines. This allowed access to the entire wood, enabling management to begin.

An initial focus on ash is to raise the crown above the reach of the Chalara ash dieback fungus, which sporulates in the leaf litter. Despite Chalara in the area, Hugh believes his pruning has prevented some trees from being infected. Other trees that have been infected to recover despite some crown die back in the previous season.

Pruning has started on oak and other potential timber trees. Understorey trees are being pollarded or coppiced as necessary to keep their crowns below those of the timber trees.

Coppicing of woodland edge shrubs has begun on a 10-year rotation to ensure strong growth and flowering every year.

Future management will encourage the growth of high-quality timber in this small woodland.


A rich flora and fauna is beginning to emerge, encouraged by the mix of trees and shrubs. A 2018 moth survey is expected to report a wide range of insect species.

The wood is proving attractive to birds -willow warblers, blackcaps, whitethroat, chiff chaff, and turtle doves have all moved in. The wood is regularly used by dog walkers and others, with local groups using it as a venue for events.

While individual trees within the wood have been affected by a range of diseases, the wood has so far proved itself resilient.

More information: www.avelandtrees.co.uk