Visited by thousands of people each year, Sefton's coastal woodlands were planted over a century ago and provide a magnificent backdrop to the coastal dune habitats. Crucially, they are also one of the few remaining habitats in the UK for the red squirrel.
Local people have a great affinity to the pine woods and see them as part of the area's heritage. "It's lovely to be there, the smell reminds me of when I was little," said one local resident, while others describe it as "the most peaceful place in the world" and "a lovely place to escape".
Prior to the Sefton Coast Woodlands Forest Plan however, the woodlands faced significant challenges. There was a lack of investment and no collective long-term vision among the fragmented ownership. This led to the woodlands becoming under-managed. The original cohort of older trees was too similar in age, meaning they were moving towards the end of their lifespan at the same time. Meanwhile their dense canopy crowded out younger replacements and prevented them from coming through. There were also no coordinated efforts towards red squirrel conservation.
To remedy this, The Mersey Forest was asked to engage as many of the coast's woodland owners as possible and to work with them to develop a comprehensive and long-term plan. Following extensive partnership-building and community consultation, the result was a jointly agreed 20-year vision and corresponding set of objectives and activities covering 420 hectares of woodland.
Key issues addressed by the plan include sustainable management of the woodlands, red squirrel conservation and supporting recreation and tourism. Management to achieve these aims is carried out by the woodland owners through a successful voluntary partnership.
Much has been achieved by this alliance of landowners, including generating sustainable wood products from the woodlands from benches to litter bins, working with European partners on climate change adaptation, and supporting the economy by providing training opportunities for young people and adults with learning difficulties.
As the Sefton Coast Woodlands Forest Plan reached its halfway point, landowners and the local community were consulted by The Mersey Forest in 2013. The Forest has benefitted from a European-funded project in the region, ForeStClim. The project informed and engage communities about the role that trees and woodlands can play in adapting to climate change. See here for the most upto date information about the Sefton Coast Woodlands Forest Plan.
In 2014 Sefton Coast Woodlands were "highly commended" for a prestigious national award. The Royal Forestry Society's Woodlands for Climate Change award acknowledges woodlands which have been sustainably managed in order to adapt to projected climate change scenarios.
The Mersey Forest also provides the secretariat to the board of the Sefton Coast Landscape Partnership. The final evaluation of the Sefton Coast Landscape Partnership Scheme funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund is available below.
A shortened version of this case study appeared in our long-term strategic guide, The Mersey Forest Plan, in 2014. Read the Plan here.