The Duke of Cornwall’s Award for Resilient Multi-Purpose Forestry 2023

Congratulations go to gold winners, Witherslack Woodlands, Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria, owned by Nicholas Stanley, and to silver winners, Hovingham Estate, Hovingham, York, owned by Sir William Worsley.

By Wendy Necar · October 26, 2023

This Award recognises woods that are managed for ecological and economic resilience to threats such as pests, diseases and climate change in order to meet commercial, environmental and social objectives.

1 Witherslack Woodlands, Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria, owned by Nicholas Stanley 

Pictured: From left, Witherslack Head Forester George Gemmell and Estate owner Nicholas Stanley

“What makes this entry stand out is the conservative approach to woodland management directed at small scale interventions. This is consistent with conservation of the environmental characteristics of the SSSI and the adaptive approach to novel tree diseases. This aligns with the ambition to capture as much value as possible from the timber though a challenging form of social enterprise based around a co-operative cluster of woodland craft businesses.” Judges.

Key points

  • Home to a cluster of 13 micro-businesses, all to some extent reliant on woodland products
  • More people in Witherslack earn a living from wood than from farming
  • Co-operation with conservation groups means conservation and sustainable woodland is an economically viable system of land use.

“Cathy and I are immensely proud to have a woodyard full of skilled and interesting people with an average age less than half ours,” Nicholas Stanley.

Pictured: From left: Charles Beaumont (Trees Please, Sponsor), Luke Hemmings (Savills Sponsor), George Gemmell, Nick Stanley, Chris Daniels (backrow Trees Please, Sponsor), RFS President Ben Herbert, and Bryan Elliott (Judge)

Witherslack Woods are thought to be largest area of Semi-Natural Ancient Woodland in the northwest. They are primarily within a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The name Witherslack comes from the Old Norse for ‘wooded hollow’ or ‘willow-tree valley’,

The silviculture generally follows that of coppice with standards.

Witherslack has become home to 13 micro-businesses. These also form project-based partnerships to run joint recreational courses, particularly in making chairs, paddles, small timber frame buildings and structures in steam-bent ash. Waste from one enterprise becomes raw material for the next resulting in a minimum amount becoming wood fuel.

Witherslack Estate Woods also contain some softwood areas, now nearing maturity. These will be restored to native woodland, as well as many areas that, in the owner’s words are “gloriously wild and unmanageable”.

Witherslack works with bodies such as Forestry England,  the Coppice Association North West, National Trust, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Cumbria Woodlands and Butterfly Conservation to ensure conservation and sustainable woodland is viable.

2 The Hovingham Estate woodlands, Hovingham, Yorkshire, owned by Sir William Worsley and managed by Tilhill  

Pictured: From left: Luke Hemmings (Savills, Sponsor), Hovingham Estate Forestry Manager David Brown (Tilhill) and Hovingham Estate Manager Alice Hayter, RFS President Ben Herbert, Charles Beaumont and Chris Daniels (Trees Please, Sponsor) and Bryan Elliott (Judge)

“The woodlands provide an attractive landscape and benefit amenity and biodiversity, within which special areas are protected from commercial use and managed as continuous cover forest because of their importance for conservation.

“The estate is a pleasingly complex set of maturing woodlands  managed to a high standard in an understandably conservative manner.” Judges.

Key points

  • The woodland area is maintained and enhanced to increase the capital value and to contribute to an integrated rural estate business
  • The woodlands are a multi-purpose resource, to enhance sporting, to provide an attractive landscape and benefit amenity
  • Small areas are managed with minimum interventions for conservation reasons

“I have enjoyed spending time in the woods at Hovingham ever since I was a child and I hope that they will continue to be an attractive place for many years to come.  As well as producing quality timber, I have maintained the strong emphasis on amenity and biodiversity.  The woodland has evolved over many years and we have aimed to create a balanced and resilient environment by planting in mixture and leaving specific areas undisturbed.  I am thrilled to accept the Silver Duke of Cornwall Award for Resilient Multi-Purpose Forestry.” Sir William Worsley.

The Hovingham woodlands forms part of the Hovingham Estate. It has been in the ownership of the Worsley family for over 450 years. The woodland and surrounding tree scape has continuously evolved over the centuries.

Management today aims to achieve a balanced dynamic forest environment. It does this by optimizing techniques to enhance growth potential of timber crops and ground flora.

The desire is to maintain production, but also improve and enhance the biodiversity value of the woodland. This is achieved using practices and systems which minimize damage by forest operations. These incorporate Natural Reserves, long term retentions and continuous cover forestry.

Shooting is of importance to the Estate. Every effort is made to reconcile the needs of shooting and productive forestry. As a result, particular attention is paid to woodland edge management. A variety of species produces a high-quality woodland edge and habitat.  This is visually beneficial to both shooting and those using the public rights of way.

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