New Native Broadleaf Planting, Heart of England

Lessons learnt from establishing a woodland for community enjoyment

Woodland: Coughton Fields, Warwickshire

Owner: The Heart of England Forest

Planted: Winter 2016-2017

Size: 105ha

Soil type: Mostly clayey loam over mudstone but some over glacial till. All neutral ph

Average annual rainfall: 60cm

Topography: Mainly flat, slightly undulating with about a third S, SE and SW facing slopes between elevations of 48m and 85m.

Primary management objective: Creation of a native broadleaf forest providing a mosaic of different habitats for wildlife, including woodland, species-rich pasture and wetland.

Managed public access is a priority to maximise the enjoyment of local woodlands.

The Heart of England Forest stretches from the ancient Forest of Arden, south to the edge of the Vale of Evesham along the Warwickshire/Worcestershire border. The charity was founded by Felix Dennis and registered in 2003.

It includes an area dense in cities, towns and industry as well as countryside. So far more than 1500ha of a planned 12,000h aof new woodlands have been planted, interconnecting, where possible, with existing woodlands. Coughton Fields Farm is one of the most recent plantings and forms a small part of the forest.

The Planting

185,000 trees and shrubs have been planted as per the table above on land which was formerly arable. The chosen tree species support the NVC W10 oak woodland types classifications of other local woodlands.


The Heart of England Forest ensures all trees, where possible, are region 403 seed provenance. Cell grown trees are from Cheviot Trees and bare root from Wyevale Transplants. The Heart of England Forest also collects its own seed, and its tree nursery supplies about 30% of the trees.

Bare root or plugs?

Cell grown 40cm –60cm plants were planted before the New Year, with bare root 40cm-60cm planted after the New Year. This is a good balance that allows planting to start at the beginning of November, the 1stis the target date.

The first-year average beat up was 7.9%, with a range of 2.5% up to 15%. Failure rates tended to be higher for the late March planting due to the soil drying out as spring approached.

Bare root = plants removed from the soil in a dormant state, from which they can more rapidly acclimate to new soil conditions. Plants need to be re-planted quickly -ideally within 48 hours.

Plug or cell grown trees = grown in small containers filled with a growing medium which means you can choose the time to plant when the weather is good.


Planting design includes wide rides, usually 15m wide but up to 30m. This ensures woodland margin habitats are maximised, and a diverse mix of habitats can thrive.

The high canopy mixture dominates the centre of each woodland block, with the margin species mainly planted along the rides and less so against existing hedgerows.

The planting density is 1760/ha. The rides account for 20% of the gross area as open space.


The tree planting was carried out with a mixture of staff, contractors and volunteers over a period of four months. Any new members of staff, such as interns or apprentices new to tree planting, were given instruction by our experienced forestry team. Volunteers are briefed before work commences on how to plant and handle trees. This is essential for those that are unfamiliar with tree planting.

Unexpected challenges

The weather! On one mass volunteer planting day, 200 corporate and public volunteers were expected to help plant 10,000 trees, but Storm Doris intervened, and numbers were drastically reduced.

Ongoing care

Deer are the main threat. Birch, alder, aspen, sycamore and all the shrubs are protected by 75cm clear spirals supported on canes, and all other trees are protected by 1.2m tree shelters supported on 1.3m stakes.

The Heart of England Forest has found that birch, aspen, alder and sycamore do not need high-level protection as they grow quickly and are less palatable to deer.

Chemical spot spraying with glyphosate-based product is carried out for the first three years alongside shelter maintenance and inspections, loss replacement and mowing of the rides.

Key Points

  • Early planted trees had a better survival rate.
  • Deer protection: 0.75 m high protection may be sufficient for birch, alder, aspen, sycamore and shrubs, with 1.2m -1.3m required for other ‘tastier’ species
  • Always check provenance with your nursery suppliers
  • When relying on volunteers for planting, include training
  • Have a plan B in place for bad weather events!

For information on Heart of England Forest, visit