Ancient woodlands

Low Park Wood is an area of Ancient Semi-natural Woodland on Low Sizergh Farm. Forming part of our farm trail it has a fascinating history, which we’d like to share with you…

Low Park Wood is an area of Ancient Semi-natural Woodland, meaning there are lots of different plant species including Butterfly Orchid, Wood Anemone, Wild Garlic, Wood Sorrel and Primrose. The tree species in the wood include Oak, Ash, Birch, Bird Cherry, Willow, Alder, Field Maple, Sycamore, Hazel and climbers such as Honeysuckle and Ivy.

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The wide range of heights, sizes and shapes of vegetation offer many different habitats to the abundance of creatures living in the wood. As farmers we rely on natural predators who live in the trees for help. The predators, such as birds and bats, feed on insect pests that can damage crops.

Historically, the woodland was coppiced every 15-20 years to produce firewood, for local craft uses, and for fencing and building materials. Some trees such as Oak and Ash would be scattered throughout for a supply of larger timber sizes. After another 15-20 years the cut areas would have grown up again. This system went on for hundreds of years until World War 1, when it started to go into decline.


A plan for the future

In the 1950’s the National Trust took over the area and almost half of it was cleared of the native species and planted with Beech and Japanese Larch. This plantation forestry took advantage of grants payable at the time, to produce a timber supply for the future. The lower half of the wood remained untouched, and when the Gunpowder works closed in 1936, the woodland began to grow over the remains of the buildings.

The lowest half of the wood, nearest the river was also cut for firewood. These areas were then partly replanted in the 1980’s with Cherry, Oak and Ash trees in an attempt to keep the native species. The plantation on the higher side was thinned regularly and fence posts and firewood were made from the 1950’s trees.

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In the late 1980’s it was realised that the non-native Larch and Beech were changing the composition of the woodland plants and leaving only Bluebells to grow. A plan was produced to change this plantation back to its original native species.

The 90 year plan is now in its 3rd (out of 9) phase and already changes are taking place as we create clearings of 40m round in the Beech and Larch, which are then planted with native trees and shrubs. This also helps the seed bank of native species from the past, which, when light is let in, germinate and develop.

The plan has also created wide, woodland tracks, allowing more light to the ground and introducing new vegetation for wildlife – including butterflies and other insect life. Roe Deer also graze on these open areas.

The tracks enable people to walk through the wood and vehicles are now able to enter the wood to help carry out the woodland work. An key part of the woodland management plan is keeping on top of the threats to this native woodland including Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed, which shade out the native plants. Litter and river pollution are also concerns.