Growing Good Oak, Whitbourne Estate 2014
This woodland has been in the family for 150 years, and has been primarily managed for quality timber.
Whitbourne Estate woodlands, Whitbourne, Worcester, WR6 5SG
RFS Silviculture 2013: Winner
The Whitbourne Estate woodlands have been owned by the Evans family for 150 years and managed for timber since the 1950s. The current owner, Bill Evans, took over from his father in 1981 and he has added to the estate woodlands by purchasing an adjoining woodland and planting further small areas under the FarmWoodland Premium Scheme.
The current estate woodlands cover 130 hectares with 22.6 hectares of mature oak; 62.3 hectares of other broadleaves, including ash (mainly 30years or less); 32 hectares of conifers (mainly 30-55 years old) and 13 hectares of a Norway spruce/oak mix.
The estate’s woodland block starts in the steep Sapey Brook valley and continues along a ridge sweeping around the village and five smaller self-contained woodlands. Much of the woodland is on steep slopes.
The management of the oaks, many of which are around 150 years old, has been of ‘exceptional quality’.
High pruning, together with timely thinning, has produced some of the best and straightest oaks the judges have ever seen – of a timber quality that will have a worldwide market from construction beams to quality veneers.
Restocking, where possible, is from acorn/seedlings sourced on the Estate.
A clear felled Norway spruce site had been restocked to a high standard with Douglas fir. Existing Douglas fir, much of it already over 30cmin diameter, is also being managed to increase girth and reach top market values rather than being sold for an earlier lesser-cash crop.
How has such quality been achieved?
Nurture and nature have been a winning combination!
Bill Evans and his family have been very good at controlling squirrels and deer through trapping and shooting, and that expenditure has paid off with some of the latest plantings showing virtually no damage at all.
Bill has also taken a very hands-on approach, using contractors for major thinning and felling works, but carrying out most of the smaller thinning jobs, ride maintenance and pruning himself. For instance, contractors were used for clear felling the Norway spruce, but the replanting and subsequent weed control was completed by Bill.
The site also benefits from ideal climatic conditions, good soils and trees with a sound genetic heritage.
Sales of mature oak have mainly been by tender, often as standing timber; an agent has been used for sale of thinnings. The woods also supply a family firewood business.
With oak, Douglas fir and other timber of this quality, there is a worldwide market.
The woods are also managed for a commercial pheasant shoot, and they are home to a wide variety of bird and insect life.
The RFS Silviculture Award 2013 was sponsored by Tubex.
Category judges were Tim Sawyer and Rob Guest, who have both held senior posts in the Forestry Commission in England.