Farningham Woods - Councillors' Briefing

16th August 2020

Farningham Woods - Councillors' Briefing

Members of the Parish Council were recently briefed on the management of the ancient woodland and Nature Reserve that lie on our doorstep. Farningham Parish Council own part of the wood which is managed by Sevenoaks District Council (SDC) on our behalf.

Councillors Liz Bourne (Chair) and Ruth Hirons heard from SDC's Countryside and Open Spaces Manager and Countryside Ranger together with one of the foremost forestry Consultants in the country who advices SDC on the challenges they face in keeping the wood healthy.

The wood has been coppiced for hundreds of years but latterly the practice petered out causing the state of the wood to decline. The flora and fauna that make the wood such a special place diminished to the point where the Nature Reserve became classified by Natural England as 'Unfavourable - declining'. Happily, since coppicing was reintroduced the health of the wood has improved and now enjoys the highest classification there is!

As coppicing ceased, the rides and glades that had traditionally been used to extract timber from the wood closed-up and were eventually lost. One of the greatest challenges with the new coppice regime has been how to remove felled timber. Coppice is generally felled during the winter to minimise disturbance to wildlife as much as possible, but this is the time when the woods are at their wettest which creates huge difficulties to moving heavy plant and machinery through the wood.

Last winter was especially difficult and the conditions eventually brought the works to a premature close with the timber extraction finally being completed within the last month. To ease logistics for the future, glades have been created over the last few seasons. These are very valuable resources in their own right providing a rich and diverse medley of habitats at the woodland edge perfect for birds, small mammals and invertebrates with the wildflowers proving a paradise for bees and butterflies!

Larger coppice poles are sold for use in timber products such as chestnut fencing with the smaller material going to commercial biomass fuel. At best, in a good year, the revenue received from the timber might just cover the costs of felling but in most years felling operations run at a deficit.

To learn more on how the woods are managed and how they faced their greatest challenge in 2015 with the discovery of Oriental Chestnut Gall Wasp (OCGW: Dryocosmus kuriphilus) visit the Farningham Woods Pages this website.

Farningham Woods

kill nothing but time, take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footsteps