Managed Woodland

When we think about ‘nature’ it is so often with the idea that ‘nature’ means not touched by humans. If you want nature, you leave things alone to take their natural course. In the case of a wood, leaving it alone often means you get a lot of brambles and if you don’t know what a wood can do, that might look persuasively natural.

Here in the UK, we’re missing our large wild mammals and have been for some time. Our woods have evolved with humans as the large wild mammals in chief. A managed wood will often have far more biodiversity than a wood that has been left to its own devices. Particularly if there’s a history of human involvement. If you look at the history of most woods in the UK, you’ll find human involvement over the last few thousand years.

There is a Woodland Trust wood not far from where I live, and I’ve walked through it a couple of times a year for some years. When I was first walking here, work was being done to clear areas, coppicing trees and building up dead hedges of the cut material. A dead hedge of twigs provides homes for insects, and for pretty much anything else that lives in a wood. Over the last few years, I’ve been able to watch how the coppiced areas have developed. It is noticeable this year that this is where the most woodland spring flowers are growing. Beautiful carpets of wood anemones in particular. I also noticed an intensity of bird song around the coppiced patches, and vibrant new growth on the trees coming up into the space.

If human intervention means tidying up nature and making it into a garden or a park, then of course a wood won’t thrive. However, when people look after woods for the wellbeing of the wood, with an underlying and evidenced understanding of how that might work, the results are impressive. If we get our interventions right, then human activity can increase the health of a woodland and increase the diversity of life within it.

Human intervention need not be a bad thing. We do not have to see ourselves as a life form that can only harm the living world. We can also support the living things around us. We can nurture life, and we can act in ways that are restorative and regenerative.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

11 responses to “Managed Woodland

  • Eliza Ayres

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal.

  • sylvaingrandcerf

    As someone from a country such as Canada, where we supposedly have abundant nature, I still believe that we can learn much about how countries such as England work with their remenants of nature. I particularly think that nature reserves that exclude people are not the way to go. Rather, I would like to see a diversity of protected areas, some pristine but others with a working collaboration between the humans and the natural community. I am particularly fascinated by projects in Europe where people are trying to recreate native woodlands from bare fields. I love to watch the progress and evolution towards beauty.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    Here in America it is hard to see anything like a natural forest.Instead we tend to have glorified tree farms of all of one kind of tree and about the same generation. There is little variety, less wildlife, and trees are planted that grow as fast as possible, but even then give poor quality wood. When harvested, huge areas are clear cut, leaving square, and rectangular barren spots all over the mountains. Meanwhile we are working through old forests in Canada and Alaska, so they will disappear with in a generation or two.

  • Nicola Thompson

    As I said in reply to another comment, I’m from the evergreen state in the US, and we are pretty big on trees and woods there. But now I live in North Yorkshire, and while the Dales are nice at all, I need the woods, for miles and miles, so I can hike for 8 hours and not go through someones farm or a village. There were some good spots when i lived in North Wales, but I struggle to find nice deep woods here. It’s not that it matters to me whether they’re human maintained, but that theyre expansive.

    • Nimue Brown

      That is definitely an issue in the UK, and it’s one that goes right back to the Iron Age, if not further – we took out our trees, and there aren’t many big expanses of woodland. Although the woodland trust are trying to re-forest us.

      • Nicola Thompson

        I’ve been a memeber of the National Trust for a couple of years now, and I really should be swapping to the Woodland Turst. I feel like they probably need it more than the NT

      • Nimue Brown

        National Trust is a bit too focused on the human for my tastes, although they do own a fair bit of land, they haven’t been as vocally protective as I would like around issues like fracking.

      • Nicola Thompson

        That’s my thought as well. There are some great benefits, parking in a lot of places being one of them. And I do like going and seeing historic buildings and gardens, but I think I’d like to put my money somewhere a little more ethically sound.

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