RFS Silviculture Award: Best of the Best Award 2022

This award recognises exemplary silviculture in commercial woodland or compartments of established crops less than 30 years age. Wood production (timber, wood fuel or other commercial products) must be the primary aim. Following five years of regional Excellence in Forestry Award the regions’ winners went head-to-head this year for the title Best of the Best.

By Wendy Necar · July 14, 2022

1 Shere Manor Estate, Surrey

Owned by Bray family, managed by English Woodlands Forestry

Pictured: In Shere Manor Estate’s award winning woods: From left,  Laura Henderson,  Co-Director English Woodlands Forestry, Tom Compton, Director English Woodlands Forestry and Dave Funnell, Harvesting Manager, Powell Forestry with Tom’s dog Paddy!

The 300 ha of Hurt Wood on the Shere Manor Estate near Peaslake was once single aged maturing Scot’s Pine across an area of heathland.

An annual programme of thinning, felling and regeneration began in 2007. It was this programme which was the focus for the award. There has been a move towards continuous cover forestry and the introduction of Douglas fir. This supplements Scot’s pine and increases diversity in the face of climate change.

Silviculture challenges have included the need to control invasive Rhododendron, gaultheria and bracken. The management team have needed to accommodate significant visitor numbers (sward management includes controlled burning, rolling and crushing) and to conserve habitat for native smooth snakes and sand lizards. A veteran tree survey has also been carried out and areas of new open habitat created.

Most timber income derives from Scots pine, sold to a local sawmill. Chip wood is sold as horse bedding. Broadleaf thinnings (oak and birch) are dried on site and sold for Biomass to Heathrow and other local markets.  Selling to local markets also helps reduce carbon emissions from the operation.

Judges’ comments

They were impressed by the way additional expense of intensive management was largely met by careful application of grants and reduced establishment costs.

“Complex silvicultural interventions became affordable, a significant income was obtained for the owners, a closed landscape was transformed into an open one, and the character of the woodland improved for both visitors and biodiversity.”

More information at English Woodlands Forestry and on their case study

2 Llangoed Estate, Powys

Owned by the Chichester family, managed by Bronwin & Abbey Ltd

Pictured: Llangoed Estate

Around half of this 192.ha conifer woodland is on a Planted Ancient Woodland Site (PAWS). They are managed to produce a consistent income stream from the sale of quality crops of conifers, as well as maintaining and enhancing the biodiversity on the Estate.

The main species grown are Sitka spruce, Douglas fir and Norway spruce. Yield Classes are high. Most conifer crops, excluding larch, are a minimum of YC 24 and there is one stand out crop of 7.74 hectares planted with Sitka (A16) and Norway spruce in 2000 on an agricultural field.

Clear felling is mostly in coupes of under 5 hectares to diversify the age structure. Improved stock is used for replanting (A16 or MU Sitka spruce, Swedish Norway spruce, La Luzette seed orchard Douglas fir).

Rapid growth (yield class 24+) and early, regular thinning often by year 16 or 17 improves stability and produces quality conifer timber. Boards from first thinning logs in the fastest grown plantations mostly stress graded as C16. Clear fell is expected to yield 70% logs and 700m3/ha. A comprehensive thinning programme was completed in December 2021.

Roe deer damage is effectively controlled by culling.

Judges’ comments:

“The skill in marketing and delivering product, and the beneficial relationship developed with contractors is important in realising value. This is delivering a very productive forest providing a significant, reliable income for the owners, a high degree of satisfaction from the forest landscape, and shows in the owner’s commitment to continuity of silvicultural treatment and succession.”

More information: Bronwin & Abbey Ltd

Receiving their awards;

Left: Silviculture Award 1: Shere Manor Estate, Surrey.  From left, RFS President Sir James Scott, judge Bryan Elliott, sponsor David Brown from Tilhill Forestry. Receiving the award, Tom Compton and Neil Powell from English Woodlands Forestry who manage the woodlands

Right: Silviculture Award 2: Llangoed Estate, Powys.  From left, RFS President Sir James Scott, judge Bryan Elliott, sponsor David Brown from Tilhill Forestry and Charles Chichester receiving the award for Llangoed Estate

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