The Garden Guide

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

Forest park design

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Forest parks are duller than they need be. In 1934 the Forestry Commissioners expressed a hope that 'the day will come when, the risk of fire being diminished, it will be possible to admit the public more freely into the plantations' (Forestry Commission 1934: 55). 'Admit... into the plantations' does not sound very appealing but at that time the public were excluded from Commission land wherever possible. The Commissioners responded to the 1931 report of the National Park Committee by opening the Argyll National Forest Park, in 1935. By 1949 six Forest Parks were in existence and the Commission was able to describe them as 'a byï¾­product' of the afforestation programme which had been obtained 'at negligible cost' (Forestry Commission 1949: 7). Forest parks now cover over 180,000 ha of land, of which less than half is afforested [Fig 8.16]. Where the scenery is spectacular, as in Glen Trool, these parks are fine. Where the scenery is less spectacular, much too little has been done to create new landscape values. The task requires imaginative design. The Border Forest Park is a case in point. It was taken in the 1934 Annual Report, as an example of a place which might become 'as highly prized by the public as is the New Forest today' (Forestry Commission 1934: 49). Unfortunately, no landscape design was prepared and the forest just expanded until it became 'the largest manï¾­made forest in Europe'. A further opportunity arose in the 1970s when 'the largest manï¾­made lake in Europe' was designed in the midst of the forest. Over a million semiï¾­mature trees had to be felled but the opportunity for creative forestry was missed, and there were disagreements with the Northumbrian Water Authority over treatment of the reservoir (Forestry Commission 1979: 14). The Forest Park and Kielder Water now attract larger numbers of visitors but they come for 'active recreation', not to see a landscape of high scenic quality. It is a soulless place. When one recalls what was achieved on less preï¾­possessing sites at Stourhead, Blenheim and Castle Howard, it is evident that a staggering opportunity for creative forest design was fudged. In 1961 it was reported that: 'Both within and outside the Forest Parks it has become the Commission's policy to open their plantations to the public wherever this can be done without undue risk of damage' (Forestry Commission 1961: 41). Footpaths and nature trails have been laid out through existing forests but a very much better footpath network could have been created if, as in new towns, the footpaths were designed before other developments. Many of the streams which have disappeared beneath the forest canopy would have made excellent footpath routes [Fig 8.17]. The Commission owns over 10,000 miles of private roads but it was not until 1977 that the first forest drive was opened to the public (Forestry Commission 1977: 15). It was romantically described as the Raiders' Road, in Galloway Forest Park, but was not subject to landscape design. A toll is levied and the road is closed in periods of high fire risk. In 1981 a decision was taken to downgrade some forest roads and to upgrade others to take heavy timberï¾­carrying trucks (Forestry Commission 1982: 25). This decision permited an increase in the recreational use of forest roads - and an opportunity to attend to their design. Roads are aligned to cause 'minimum damage' to the landscape, but should be planned to maximise their value as scenic drives ï¾­ in the same way that reservoir access roads are designed to give access to the dam site during the construction period and planned to serve the recreational facilities which will follow at a later date. The detailing of roads should receive careful attention. Most have been cut through the hillside without any attention to grading or revegetation of embankments.