It is set to be a busy 2012 for Sefton's coastal woodlands, with woodland management work taking place to provide better habitat for the area's red squirrels and to protect the woods from disease and high winds, as well ongoing progress to shape the next 10 years of the Sefton Coast Woodlands Forest Plan.
The woodland management work will take place in autumn at sites including Altcar Rifle Range, Ainsdale Sand Dune National Nature Reserve and Formby Golf Club, and will be coordinated by The Mersey Forest and landowners including The National Trust and Natural England. Most of the work will involve "thinning" – the removal of selected trees in dense areas to improve the condition of the woodland as a whole. There will also be a few areas where small clearings are created and replanted with young trees to produce a well-balanced woodland made up of trees of different ages.
Some felling of trees has already commenced, with horses being used at the National Nature Reserve to help remove logs – a traditional technique which takes advantage of the animals' ability to manoeuvre through densely wooded areas. The horses are also advantageous on sensitive sites as they reduce soil compaction.
The work forms part of the Forest Plan for the coastal woodlands, which is reaching the halfway point in its 20 year mission to support landowners to manage the woodlands sustainably for the long-term.
The Mersey Forest is coordinating a review of the Forest Plan to look at any changes needed to its medium and long-term objectives that will guide the next decade of woodland management for the area, including helping the woods to adapt to climate change.
The Mersey Forest has visited all woodland landowners who are part of the Forest Plan to advise, get initial feedback and collect monitoring data from the previous 10 years. A new interest group panel made up of landowners, stakeholders and other interested parties has also been formed with the help of The Mersey Forest. The panel met for the first time in January 2012 to begin the consultation process and to help develop the new medium-term objectives for the next 10 years (2013-2023).
Funding for the review of the Sefton Coast Woodlands Forest Plan has been secured from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and from ForeStClim, whose Steering Group will be visiting the area later this month to look at climate issues on the coast and how The Mersey Forest is helping landowners to manage their woodlands to cope with future climate change.