The Garden Guide

Book: Landscape Planning and Environmental Impact Design: from EIA to EID
Chapter: Chapter 8 Forest design, forestry and sylviculture

Broadleaf design policy

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Broadleaf species have been rooted out. In 1934 the Forestry Commission described its mission as 'the provision of coniferous plantations and the maintenance of existing woodlands' (Forestry Commission 1934: 18). This implied that broadleaved forests would be restocked with broadleaved trees. In a few cases this was done, but it was normal for old oakwoods and beechwoods to be replanted with conifers. The redoubtable Professor Stebbing criticised this policy in 1928 and the Friends of the Lake District and New Forest followed suit. In 1934 the Commission reported that 'Directions were given some years ago that in the two largest of the former Crown Woods (New and Dean Forests) broadleaved trees were to be given preference wherever the conditions were suitable' (Forestry Commission 1934: 54). Everything, however, turned on the interpretation of 'suitable'. Coniferï¾­planting went ahead in the former Crown Woods because broadleaf species would not yield a speedy economic return. If the nation is willing to wait longer until a crop is harvested, or if it is willing to forego an economic return, on aesthetic or sentimental grounds, then most land becomes 'suitable' for broadleaf planting. It is even possible that in the long run broadleaves will produce a better return than conifers, because the wood is used for luxury goods and because Britain's climate and soils are well suited to hardwoods. About 93% of the Commission's planting has been coniferous (Forestry Commission 1949:56). In 1980 the Sherfield report on Scientific aspects of forestry recommended more emphasis on broadleaf planting (Select Committee on Science and Forestry 1980). This led, in 1984, by a new Forestry Commission consultative paper on Broadleaves in Britain. It stated, at long last, that 'in general there should be a presumption in favour of maintaining broadleaved woodland on suitable sites' (Forestry Commission 1984). The question of how to assess 'suitability' remained. The Nature Conservancy Council estimate that between 30% and 50% of Britain's lowland broadleaf woods have been lost since the 1940s ï¾­ either to conifers or to agriculture (Nature Conservancy Council 1984). The new broadleaf policy was adopted in 1985. Three examples from the Galloway Forest Park may be used to illustrate the Commission's preï¾­1985 broadleaf policy. 1.The magnificent stand of sessile oak on the west shore of Loch Trool. It is, rightly, being managed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and as a popular beauty spot [Fig 8.13]. 2The steep hillside on the east shore of Loch Trool, down which Robert the Bruce rolled boulders onto an English army [Fig 8.14]. It was planted with conifers in the 1960s. They are not growing well and will be difficult to harvest ï¾­ partly for physical reasons and partly because aesthetic objections will be raised. It would have been better to encourage the oak scrub which might, in time, have attained a character like the vegetation which survives on islands in the loch. It would be pleasant to walk through, would support a diverse fauna and flora, and would emphasise the perils of the route taken by the English army. 3.The stand of sessile oak which on the road between Newton Stewart and Bargrennan, beside a lovely reach of the River Cree [Fig 8.15]. It has been underplanted with hemlock to grow on when the oak is harvested. This plan may have had economic merit but it was fundamentally misconceived on aesthetic and conservation grounds.