Woodlands Planted for Resilience

Selfton Coast Diversifying Single Angle Structures

With a responsibility to deal with complex and diverse needs of multiple interest groups, Mersey Forest had developed novel approaches to diversifying the single age structure of stands of Corsican pine.

Sefton Coast Woodlands, Formby – The Mersey Forest

RFS Woodlands for Climate Change Award 2014 – Highly Commended


With a responsibility to deal with complex and diverse needs of multiple interest groups, Mersey Forest had developed novel approaches to diversifying the single age structure of stands of Corsican pine. Small
felling coupes have been replanted with a range of six conifer species taking into account micro‐climate, aspect and light levels at fine scale.

Sefton Coast woodlands cover 410ha bordering the coast near Warrington. With a highly fragmented ownership consisting of 27 owners ‒ including Sefton Council, National Trust, Natural England, golf clubs, and numerous private owners‒ there was formerly a lack of investment and no collective vision. Mersey
Forest helped develop a 20‐year plan for the sustainable management of the woodlands. Management is conducted via a voluntary partnership model.

The coastal woodlands were planted over 100 years ago. They border an internationally‐important open dune system, while the trees provide habitat and one of Britain’s last remaining strongholds for the red squirrel.

Vision for the woodlands

Key issues identified in the plan include:

  • adaptation to climate change
  • addressing pests and disease
  • production of sustainable timber
  • conservation of the red squirrel
  • supporting recreation and tourism

Increasing resilience

Corsican pine is dominant, almost to the exclusion of all other tree species. A wider range of species should provide insurance in the face of changing climate and new pest and disease threats.

Coupe design

A target to fell the pine and replant small coupes of 0.15‐0.50ha with a diverse range of tree species has been instigated. The small size of these minimises their visual impact, while by implementing these across many years, the physical structure and age of the stand will become more diverse over time.

Across the Sefton Coast woodlands, the approach will ensure no single species will comprise more than 25%. Pine is likely still to make up 25% but will consist of Corsican and Scots pine in equal proportions. A reduction in the dominance of Corsican pine is prudent, given the prevalence of red band needle blight. Other species being planted include other pines (Lodgepole, Macedonian, Maritime and Monterey), Douglas‐fir and Sitka spruce.

Within each felling coupe, the micro‐climate is accounted for at fine resolution at replanting. The theory is that species are planted in the coupe according to favour their specific silvicultural requirements. For example, shade-tolerant species are planted on southern fringes, where most shade is cast by neighbouring mature crop trees.

Lessons Learnt

In practice, the replanting of the coupes has, at times, proven overly complex. It has been found that planting contractors are unused to this level of micro‐design, and species have not always been planted in their ideal positions.

Felling activities and the resulting increase in local timber are stimulating timber markets and increasing employment opportunities. Sefton Coast Woodlands are acting as a case study within a European research project (ForStClim). Their role in providing adaptation to the impacts of climate change are being studied.

In a wider geographic context, Mersey Forest is ‘climate twinned’ with a community forest partner in north‐west France, whose climate is closely matched to that projected for the Merseyside area by 2014‐60.


The 2014 Excellence in Forestry Climate Change
Award was supported by Forestry Commission England in partnership with England’s Climate Ready Support Service hosted in the Environment Agency.

Category judges:

Dr Gabriel Hemery FICFor, is Chief Executive of the Sylva Foundation.
John Weir MICFor, Advisor for Woodland Creation and Resilience, Forestry Commission England.


Text and Photos by the Sylva Foundation.