Appleton Upper and Lower Common have been under the oversight of the family for over 50 years and as the profitability of woodland has fluctuated over that time period, so has our management time and effort and financial resources.
In April 2008 Natural England carried out an assessment of Appleton Lower Common. The result was that the condition of the wood was assessed as Favourable, though the assessment did highlight a lack of young saplings and that the age structure was too uniform. The assessment also identified that the tree canopy was too dense and complete.
In 2009 we prepared and agreed a new 5 year Woodland Management Plan with the Forestry Commission and Natural England. This plan gave us permission to thin a large area of Appleton Lower Common, which was over crowded. In 2009 we thinned 35 acres of wood, removing up to 70% of tree stems (about 50% of tree volume). In 2010 we have thinned a further 25 acres.
The remaining areas of the woods we will continue to thin on a rotational basis, but we will not remove so many trees. This thinning will continue to open up the tree structure of the wood, thereby increasing diverse nature of the tree canopy, which in turn will encourage a diverse ground flora and fauna.
We try to encourage the restocking of trees by nature itself. On occasions we do need to help by planting new trees grown in a nursery and transplanted to the woods. This normally occurs where we are trying to increase a particular tree species or where past management has not been effective in encouraging natural self seeding.
The transplanted trees are protected in 1.2m high plastic (biodegradable) tree guards to protect the trees from browsing deer. The tree guards have a built in line of weakness so will split when the tree trunk diameter touches the tree guards. As the tree guards split away, we collect them up and remove from the woodland for safe disposal.
Many woodlands have historically been kept as a private recreation area for the woodland owners and we still prohibit access to some ares of our woodlands to provide a quiet undisturbed environment for wildlife.
We do however encourage access to our woodlands through a number of activities. The biggest means is through Woodland Ways Ltd, a bushcraft and survival skills company which operatews within both Appleton Upper and Lower Common. They run a number of courses within the woods teaching a range of skills and crafts. For further information please visit Woodland Ways Ltd.
We also have a Woodland Open Day each year to encourage members of the public to come and see how the purchase of firewood is helping us to manage the woodlands to encourage more wildlife, flora and fauna.
We love to see wild deer in the woodlands and across the farm fields, we do need to control their numbers to minimise the damage to young trees. We have Roe, Muntjac and occasionally Fallow deer
Over population of the woods by deer can lead to overgrazing of the ground flora and coppice re-growth. In extreme cases and over a prolonged period of time, deer grazing can result in the complete failure of coppice re-growth, which results in a change in the woodland structure and habitat.
As part of the woodland management plan agreed with the Forestry Commision and Natural England we have a sustainable deer management plan in place to control numbers of all three species found in the wood.
Wild venison is a very healthy red meat being low in fats and has wonderful flavour. If you would like to try some venison, but have never cooked it before we can recommend some recipes.
Contact us for further information on availability and prices
Seasons for wild venison
- Muntjac - all year round
- Male Roe - 1st April - 30th October
- Female Roe - 1st November - 30th March
Before we carried out the thinning in the Appleton Lower Common, the tree canopy was too thick for the sunlight to reach the woodland floor and therefor very little in the way of woodland flora was able to flourish. We still had small areas where the wild flowers etc were able to grow but in a limited capacity.
Almost as soon as we felled the first few trees we seemed to get an increase in the butterflies and insects within the wood and these soon encouraged the birdlife and birdsong back into the wood.
Deadwood both standing and on the ground, has been found to be almost as important within woodland biodiversity as is live wood. It provides an important habitat for insects, fungi and mosses. Woodpeckers would complain bitterly if we removed all the deadwood from within the woodland.
One year on it is surprising to see how much ground vegitation has been stimulated to life. There are many more grasses and flowers. In the years to come we will hopefully see an explosion of ground flora and the woodland filled with bees, butterflies and a cachophony of other woodland insect sounds.
In 2010 we had a pair of buzzards nesting in the middle of the thinning area and despite the activities they succesfully raised two chicks. The adult buzzards were sometimes seen to be watching the thinning operations, almost as if to see what the felling contractors would flush out for the birds to catch.
We aim to carry out flora and fauna surveys in 2012 to see how well it is responding ot the woodland management and to confirm what species we have.
Please see our photo gallery to see some of the woodland area.