Our plans for Brandon Reach & Piles Coppice will protect woodland for future generations.

In 2019 Brandon Reach & Piles Coppice were acquired as an extension to Brandon Marsh

The Trust has begun to formulate plans that will reintroduce woodland management that will provide long-term protection and resilience to a regionally important woodland.

In 2018, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust acquired two sizeable areas of land, Piles Coppice and Brandon Reach, which expanded our nature reserve footprint surrounding Brandon Marsh. These areas included sections of important ancient semi-natural woodland which hadn’t been managed in some decades. One motivation to acquire these nature reserves was to deliver part of a new strategy aimed at making Warwickshire’s woodlands better protected for wildlife and people, more resilient to change, and sustainably managed.

In particular, the recent COVID-19 crisis has highlighted an increased value of green spaces used by local people, so the Trust’s commitment to increasing accessibility to well protected nature sites is closely tied in with this strategy.

Warwickshire is among the least wooded counties in the UK, which in turn is one of the least wooded countries in Europe. This makes Warwickshire’s woodlands precious and important within the landscape. Woodlands have been essential to people for thousands of years, used for timber, fuel and shelter, and more recently for public recreation as well.  We know woodlands play an important role in securing carbon, purifying the air we breathe and also helping to prevent flooding.

Warwickshire Wildlife Trust advocates for actively managing wildlife habitats for biodiversity and sustainable woodland management can help secure the long term future of woodlands.  Trees of different ages and varied structures due to cyclical felling, thinning and coppicing will attract a bigger range of wildlife, and will also be more resilient to pests, diseases and climate change. Therefore, one of the biggest threats to our woodlands is the decision not to manage them.

Parts of Brandon Reach and Piles Coppice haven’t seen management since around the 1950s, and particularly in Piles Coppice the woodland has almost fully closed over - consisting mainly of deteriorating and even-aged small leaved lime coppice stools and closed-canopy oak high forest. Whilst this type of woodland benefits many common species adapted for such conditions, some of the threatened and rare species that require a varied structure and differing levels of light and micro-climates are in danger of being squeezed out. The woodland is also lacking enough canopy gaps and light to encourage the next generation of trees to come through, which would replace the older trees once they reach the end of their natural life expectancy. This is particularly concerning in a woodland made up of mainly similar aged trees, and threatens the long-term stability of the wood.

Bluebells Piles Coppice April 2020 Ed Green

Ed Green

 

Following two years of monitoring wildlife and engaging with local groups and individuals, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust is currently developing plans to establish how to reintroduce sensitive management in a woodland that has not been managed for some time. The Trust is currently liaising with local stakeholders, including neighbours, environmental groups and wildlife conservation experts in order to best balance the protection of many individual important features within the woodlands.

Following this consultation and the implementation of any adaptations, the plans will then need to be approved by the Forestry Commission who will assess the plans against the UK Forestry Standards (UKFS) which is the UK government’s approach to sustainable woodland management.  To gain approval, the plans will have to address the protection of biodiversity, the woodland’s protection from climate change and consider the historic environment, the current landscape, and the people who currently use the woodland. The plans will also need to protect the important woodland soils and natural water courses.  

Within Brandon Reach, the focus will also be on thinning out ash trees in favour of alternative species. The disease ash dieback has been devastating ash trees throughout the country as it sweeps its way north, and has now reached the Coventry area. As the ash trees die they become dangerous to people and property, and where they form the majority of a woodland, as within parts of Brandon Reach, the ecology of the woodland can also be threatened. So, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust is planning ahead by removing potentially hazardous trees and thinning woodland blocks in favour of alternative native species. This should add some resilience to the woodland and provide long-term protection for wildlife and people.

The management work will be in part achieved by contractors and whilst woodland management can appear destructive, cause temporary inconvenience, and hamper accessibility - the woodland soon recovers.  During these works the contractors will avoid using the path network wherever possible and any areas that are disturbed will be repaired before works are completed.

Locals can get involved in their local woodlands by volunteering with the Trust, and the charity aims to provide positive opportunity and continued access for local people through our woodland management; making them healthy and vibrant places for both people and wildlife.