Project Status: In Progress.
The existence of Thames Chase Community Forest and associated local activity of the Forestry Commission, Woodland Trust, Essex Wildlife Trust, RSPB and local authorities offers an opportunity to restore 20 hectares of woodland through thinning, ride restoration, coppicing and under-planting; to bring 40 hectares of grassland into active conservation management; and create or restore at least 10km of hedgerows within the landscape.
The strategic context for this project will be developed through the ‘From Local to Landscape’ project (A1.1) which through its Landscape Management Plan element will help guide areas of project focus. The project will also complement the ‘Connections for People and Wildlife’ project (A3.2) which seeks to link up newly restored and managed woodlands, grasslands and hedgerows. Improvements to these habitats will also create new access and interpretation opportunities for walks, which will be developed through the Walking project (D1.1).
The project will focus on three themes:
Confirmed sites include Pages Wood along the Ingrebourne (see ‘River Catchments’ Year 2, A3.1).
Drawing on Forestry Commission expertise, woodland management initiatives will be developed into Countryside Stewardship agreements where possible to ensure a longer-term managed legacy. Where appropriate, the works will utilise rare breed Suffolk Punch horses to extract timber, supporting a local traditional industry and delivering forestry operations in a less intrusive manner. Use of such traditional methods will create interpretation opportunities reflecting the broader Land of the Fanns narrative (B1.1 and B4.1). Conservation volunteering opportunities will be built into the remedial work programme where possible.
The project sites will be selected on the basis of the Landscape Character Assessment, the Thames Chase Plan and partnership identified opportunities, and be delivered by the Forestry Commission. It will also be guided as appropriate by the Landscape Management Plan (A1.1), which will also complement delivery of this project through targeted support to the farming community to access Countryside Stewardship.
This element of the project will first identify 40 hectares proposed by environmental bodies and which fit the recommendations of the Landscape Character Assessment and Landscape Management Plan (A1.1), which will then become the focus of Countryside Stewardship efforts to ensure a longer-term managed legacy. This represents a targeted intervention, complementing the broader improvements to farmland through Countryside Stewardship which is a focus of the ‘From Local to Landscape’ project (A1.1). Potential sites that could be considered include Broadfields Farm in Havering, and Belhus Chase in Thurrock. This project would then help fund the necessary infrastructure needed to implement the grazing regimes.
If there are clear opportunities to increase the planned 40 hectare output further, funding could be allocated towards a forage harvester which collects arisings when cutting. This would accelerate the development of species-rich grassland and would have the advantage that it could be used for more sites and all parts of those sites. With grazing, this would be restricted to fenced sites. The arisings could be linked with a composting scheme, drawing on the Havering Wildlife Project example at Cranham Marsh where compost has been successfully sold locally over many years. If the project takes this direction, it will be linked to the social enterprise elements of ‘From Local to Landscape’ (A1.1).
Priority locations for hedgerow planting and restoration will be identified through advice from environmental bodies and which fit the recommendations of the Landscape Character Assessment and Landscape Management Plan (A1.1). These locations will then become the focus of Countryside Stewardship development where possible to support long term managed legacy. This hedgerow element represents a targeted landscape intervention, complementing the broader improvements to farmland through Countryside Stewardship which is a focus of the ‘From Local to Landscape’ project (A1.1). Through this interaction with landowners, opportunities to link volunteer led planting opportunities given for free in return for an undertaking to manage the hedges to an agreed standard will be explored.
During the actual restoration works, local skills and expertise in hedgerow management, restoration and establishment will be developed.