In Autumn 2011, we decided to investigate possible sources of funding for major conservation projects on Crompton Moor. It was agreed that we would approach Biffa and Viridor amongst others, and identified an area of Whitesides plantation that we felt would be ideal for a relatively small scale project. The intention was to create a loop in an established footpath into the woods, incorporating a boardwalk over a swampy area as well as bird feeding stations, and woven willow viewing screens. Signage and information boards would be provided, giving details of the birds, plants and other wildlife likely to be seen in the area.
We felt that this would benefit the local birdlife, as well as providing an educational facility for local schoolchildren, whilst also testing us as an organisation.
The Trust for Conservation Volunteers, and OMBC became involved, but after reasonable progress had been made, it was decided to shelve the project as the area was still recovering from an extensive thinning programme that had been commissioned by OMBC a year or so earlier.
Still wishing to press forward with some form of woodland regeneration project, we turned our attention to Black Hey plantation. This is an area in which OMBC planned to do some thinning in the winter of 2012/13, and we agreed with them that on the back of their thinning programme, we would involve the Woodland Trust and create glades, and a central ‘ride’ (a wide path cut through the wood to allow in light and encourage new growth)
The thinning programme started in December 2012, with us and the Woodland Trust advising on glade locations and sizes.
The intention was to let in plenty of natural light, that would encourage the undergrowth, and benefit the entire woodland, together with the plants and animals that live there.
These two photos are taken from the same spot in Black Hey, and show the difference between the unthinned and largely lifeless wood, and (by turning 180 degrees) what a difference is made by opening up a glade to allow sunlight to reach the woodland floor.
Following on from the thinning and glade clearance, some of the fallen trees were left in place to encourage fungi, insects and as shelter for small rodents. Other felled trees and their brash (smaller twigs and branches) were used to line the ride, to encourage use of this as a pathway, and act as a wildlife habitat. There followed some planting of new broad-leaved trees around the edges of the ride and the main glade, which have taken well.
Provision of bird feeding stations and viewing screens may follow, once the woodland recovers, and subject to further funding being sought..
This is a long-term project that will take many years to develop into a rich and varied habitat, but nonetheless it was important that we started it immediately after the programme of thinning. Experience has shown that if woodland is thinned and then ignored, then the main opportunity for healthy regeneration through new planting is missed.