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Editor’s note:

For those of you who don’t know Oakley Wood, it is a beautiful area of woodland adjacent to the Crematorium. It is regularly visited and enjoyed by local people including many families and dog-walkers. It is particularly lovely in early May when the Bluebells are in full flower. Here you will find details of a 10 year plan, outlined by ‘The Friends of Oakley Wood’ and ’The Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’, which aims to develop the woodland and ensure its sustainability for generations to come. Whether you are a newcomer to the wood or an established visitor, please read on …….

In 2020, the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and Warwick District Council began a new joint management programme, as part of a ten-year strategy to provide the district’s woodlands with better protection for wildlife, resilience to change and future sustainability.

The first phase of the project has seen the start of a restoration programme at Oakley Woods to promote the establishment of native broadleaved trees. The initial work which is supported by the Friends of Oakley Wood required the removal of around one third of the conifer trees to create several 30 metre clearings. These new openings in the tree canopy will provide light and space for native trees to grow. Over the winter months the natural growth of the existing trees will be supplemented by further tree planting.

The Director of Reserves and Community Engagement at Warwickshire Wildlife, Karl Curtis said:

“Warwickshire is among the least wooded counties in the UK, which makes the woodlands in this district precious not only in terms of the landscape, but also for the role they play in securing carbon, purifying the air we breathe and prevention of flooding. Working alongside Warwick District Council the Trust are advocates for sustainable woodland management and protecting and encouraging wildlife habitats for biodiversity. One of the biggest threats to our woodlands would be a decision not to manage them, so while the current programme of work may appear destructive, the woodland will soon recover and attract a bigger range of wildlife and gain more resilience to pests, diseases and climate change.”

If you would like to help ensure the future of Oakley Wood, then please visit our web-site for information about the group and a diary of activities.

See also the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust website

or more about Oakley Wood.

Wendy Barlow

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Oakley Wood is owned by Warwick District Council and managed on its behalf by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.

The Friends of Oakley Wood works in partnership with both organisations to ensure the wood is managed sustainably for the benefit of local people and wildlife.

The overall vision is to develop a vibrant woodland, rich in wildlife that is well visited and sustainably managed. A 10-year plan to thin and return the wood to a broadleaf wood has been approved by the Forestry Commission and the first stage in implementing the plan will start in the Autumn.

Thinning will remove up to 30% of trees across selected areas (20ha), favouring the retention of native broadleaf trees. Clear felling of nine 30 m coupes (0.3ha) in areas with the highest proportion of conifer will facilitate the planting with native broadleaves following operations.

The areas covered by the work are shown in the map below.

Oakley Wood Management – 2019/20
Restoring our native woodlands for people and wildlife
From The Warwickshire Wildlife Trust

Oakley Wood was clear felled for the urgent national need of timber just after the second world war, when the British hardwood species such as oak and ash would have been used for building, pit props and fuel to get the nation back on its feet. Years later, to fulfil the continuing demand, the wood was over planted with many non-native and native conifer species which we find still there today.

Whilst the clear felling would have no doubt had a serious impact on the local flora and fauna at the time, the wood has established as a pine plantation that meant that many types of wildlife couldn’t return – where the tree species do not support our local wildlife. Of course some does thrive, but to ensure that Oakley Wood once again becomes majestic broad leaved woodland full of local wildlife, there is a need to restore it.

Fortunately this will be over a slower process than when it was clear felled and regular visitors will be aware of the ride work that has been undertaken over the last 5 or so years, essentially returning the woodland edge corridors around the path network to let native species thrive again.

The next phase of work, starting this autumn, will be to thin the conifer trees out in certain areas by a third to promote the establishment of native species. This will be done by taking out around 33% of the trees across specific areas or “coupes” but also punching holes around 30m in diameter, creating small openings in the wood. These openings will start to provide age and structural diversity in the wood as woodlands that are the healthiest have a variety of stages of growth and a diversity of species – making sure they are resilient to disease and climate change and perpetuate for the long term. This work will be achieved by contractors and whilst woodland management can look destructive and cause some temporary inconvenience around access, the woodland soon recovers. During the works the contractors will avoid using the path network wherever possible and any areas that are disturbed that people use will be put right at the end of the operation. We also ask visitors to take precautions and stay away from timber stacks and adhere to any warning signs.

The woodland management is essential for future people and wildlife to come to enjoy it and play a vital role in our landscape – woodlands live in hundreds of years as opposed to decades. One of the biggest threats to woodlands is not managing them and therefore we appreciate your patience whilst this vital work is undertaken that will benefit people for generations to come.

If you have any questions, please contact Warwickshire Wildlife Trust via our website.

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Friends of Oakley Wood (FOW) are a group formed in 2007 when Oakley Wood came up for sale. FOW lobbied Warwick District Council to persuade them to buy the wood and preserve it as an area of ancient woodland with access for walkers and nature lovers. We are now a group which organises various activities in the woods throughout the year.

In 2011 we were successful in our application for a Leader Grant to fund Horse Logging and other Rural crafts in the wood.

If you would like to help ensure the future of Oakley Wood, then please visit our web-site for information about the group and a diary of activities.

Rod Scott

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  Oakley Wood