Much of the workload this winter has been taken up by writing a series of nineteen woodland management plans for Cornwall Council. While new planting often makes the headlines, managing our existing woodlands is really important also. As well as being an economic asset, they are havens for wildlife and play a big role in the quality of life for local residents.
Kilminorth Wood, Looe
Trees and hedges provide benefits, including*:
Trees shade our buildings and streets
Trees filter pollutants out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark
Trees reduce traffic noise, muffle nuisance sounds and mask unsightly buildings
Views of trees help medical patients recuperate faster and improve mental health
Cornwall Council own a series of woods and wanted to look to improve their management as part of the wider Forest for Cornwall initiative. Managing the woods safely with the spread of ash dieback disease and also there role in carbon fixing (and helping mitigate the effects of climate change) were also important aspects of the brief.
The nineteen sites included thirteen smaller woods, mainly on the urban fringe, and often planted in the 1980s and 1990s. Indeed in my younger days I was the planting contractor at both Bodmin Beacon and Pennygillam Industrial Estate! Six larger sites ranged from, new planting on the Beacon, to the eighteenth century planting that is now Tehidy Country Park to Kilminorth Wood, which is designated as ancient woodland (woodland since 1600 and possibly back to the retreat of the ice caps years ago).
Tehidy Park: OS First edition map, circa 1890.
Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland
In order to determine the existing carbon content of the woodlands, Land and Heritage followed the methodology of the FC Carbon Code: Carbon Assessment Protocol (V.2.0) 2018. This requires a modification of the standard inventory methodologies (FC Forest Mensuration Handbook 2008) with the measurement of sample plots within given stratifications within each woodland. Sound rather technical? That’s why I left it to Simon: our best forester! The calculations show that the woods we have looked at have over 85,000 cubic metres of timber in them, which amounts to around 120,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Well managed, those numbers should increase as time goes on, through growth of trees and also storage in dead wood and soil carbon. Millennium Wood, planted 21 years ago on the edge of Penzance, can be expected to quadruple its carbon storage as it matures.
But the huge value of woodlands, beyond forestry, wildlife and climate change is the difference they can make to the quality of our lives. Sites with a major community involvement demonstrate this particularly well. Empowering local communities to help achieve a wide range of objectives is a challenge but can be extremely rewarding. The Friends of Tregoniggie Wood in Falmouth are one such group we have championed on a number of occasions. But others are emerging and are always looking for additional volunteers.
Friends of Tregonoggie Wood
The Government is understood to be announcing new initiatives to encourage more tree planting in the coming weeks, and we have been told that planting grants will show a significant increase on those currently available. The Climate Change Committee have suggested that the country needs to increase woodland cover from the current 15% to 19% to help achieve net zero targets. This is a large area, with major implications for agriculture, but 19% is only around half the European average. The Forest for Cornwall is targeting 8,000 new hectares of woodland as Cornwall Council’s own contribution to that goal. Some of that will be on their own land, but the plan is to encourage more planting on private land as well.
We will post a blog on here again as soon as details of the new scheme or schemes become available.