Ennerdale's forest is one of the valleys Big Four features along with its Mountains, Lake and Rivers. The management of the forest is aimed at allowing it to develop as a more diverse habitat with a dynamic mosaic of mixed species, open glades, dense patches, cathedral sized big trees, deadwood, open woodland, windblown trees and of course wildlife and people. Like other areas of our work the Wild Ennerdale Partners have a future natural approach to managing the forest. This accepts that the future forest will be a mix of native and non native species as to remove all the non native species would have a significantly negative impact on much of the valleys wildlife which use conifers for shelter and food.
Forestry England manages most of the forest in the valley the majority of which lies east and north of Ennerdale Water. In addition National Trust owns Side Wood, a really special ancient semi natural woodland of birch and oak trees. United Utilities own some small areas of woodland at the west end of the valley around the pumping station and have been planting trees on former agricultural land associated with Low Moor End Farm which was bought as part of measures to protect the River Ehen's protected habitats.
More information about the management of the forest.
The Ennerdale forest is dominated by even aged non native conifers, mostly Sitka spruce. Our vision for the valley sees the dominance of Sitka spruce reducing over time and encouraging a more native species diverse forest to develop. The majority of the felling we do is to reduce the number of Sitka spruce trees and make space for the planting of native species. Much of the felling we completed during 2020 and 2021 was in the valley bottom between the two roads at the east end of the valley. This is aimed at opening up the River Liza riparian corridor to allow more diverse species and woodland structure to develop. We have been planting Scots pine, Juniper, Mountain willows, Aspen, Silver and Downy birch and Rowan in this area as the seed source for the future forest.
Forestry England replant felled areas with native trees, non native trees haven't been planted in the valley for more than 20 years now. Where the site is easy to access and thought likely to be practically and economically viable in the future Forestry England will plant at a productive density. Typically these sites are found in the western and middle valley. On these sites Forestry England plant with a mix of Scots pine, Sessile oak, Aspen and Silver birch at a stocking density of around 2500 to 3000 trees per hectare as this rate produces the best quality timber. On less productive steep rocky sites a more open clumpy variable density mix of Juniper, Mountain willow, Rowan, Aspen, Downy birch and Alder are more likely to be planted. These sites tend to be towards the eastern end of the valley.
Phytophthora Larch Disease Harvesting
During Summer and Autumn 2021 Phytophthora Ramorum was identified across 60 hectares of larch forest at the west end of the Ennerdale valley. To help control the spread of the disease and reduce the risk of a variant jumping into another tree or shrub species Forestry England is required to fell or kill standing the infected trees.
Given this is a significant change from the Wild Ennerdale Stewardship Plan, Forestry England shared their proposals via a Citizen Space web page and asked for feedback. The consultation period has completed but you can still download a PDF document outlining their plans via the webpage.
Forestry England received 11 responses to their public engagement regarding the upcoming Phytophthora Ramorum plant heath felling in Ennerdale. Not all these responses raised questions, and some questions were duplicates of others.
Responses requiring a reply are summarised and anonymised in this Ennerdale Public Engagement Responses 2022 document
More Information about the felling of infected larch trees
Forestry England hope to start felling and extracting infected larch trees in May 2022 and continue working through to the end of September 2022.
Yes Forestry England will have to close Bowness Knott car park whilst we fell trees around the car park and use the car park as a stacking area for timber extracted from areas between the car park and the bottom of the tarmac hill down to the lakeshore. The work around the car park was planned to start after Easter but due to the number of constraints involved it is now planned for after the end of the Summer school holidays.
Forestry England could leave the infected trees standing but they would have to be killed using a stem herbicide application to meet the requirements of the Plant Health Notice. Whilst this was the chosen solution in 2014 when the last large Phytophthora outbreak occurred it is not the preferred option as the trees take a number of weeks to die during which the disease continues to produce spores. The dead standing trees pose tree safety risks to other forest users and restrict follow on planting of the next generation of trees.
Forestry England is responsible for getting the best value for money in its management of the Nations Forests. Leaving the felled trees and not extracting them is a significant cost operation compared to making a small surplus from felling and extracting them.
In addition there are other reasons for extracting the timber.
- Much of the the timber is converted into boards and beams for use in the construction industry where it locks up the carbon in it for many decades inside buildings and houses. Left on site the timber will rot releasing the carbon locked up in it back the atmosphere.
- Leaving the timber not extracted will physically prevent access to replant the felled areas with native trees and the biodiversity gains that the future woodlands would bring.
- As a country we are one of the largest importers of timber so producing our own timber saves the carbon emissions from timber being transported to the UK.
- Extracting and despatching timber to sawmills supports businesses and employment.
Timber haulage from Ennerdale will follow the Agreed Route to and from Bowness Knott via Croasdale, Ennerdale Bridge, Kirkland and A5086 south of Lamplugh Cross. This is highlighted red on the Timber Transport Forum Map. This plan was led by Cumbria County Council and widely consulted with Parish Councils and other organisations. Forestry England expect timber haulage will follow the same pattern as in the harvesting period 2020 to 2021. when the average number of lorry movements a day was 5 and around 75% of timber lorry movements happen on days when no more than 8 lorry movements occur. ( A lorry movement counts the journey in and the journey out separately). Also 70% of lorry movements occur before 10am before the majority of those visiting the valley arrive.
Forestry England has met with the Parish Council and Cumbria County Council Highways and having listened to the concerns expressed has incorporated the following voluntary commitments within the timber harvesting contract:
- There will be no timber despatch on weekends.
- Timber lorries will be limited to a maximum speed of 25mph between the A5086 and Ennerdale Forest with a lower 10mph speed limit through Croasdale. On forest roads timber lorries along with all vehicles are limited to a 15mph speed limit.
- Timber hauliers will avoid Ennerdale Bridge school opening and closing times to reduce congestion . During these exclusion periods lorries will wait on the A5086 or in the wide section of road beside Broadmoor.
- Forestry England will install temporary highways specification metal signs along the length of the timber haulage route to warn road users that timber lorries are using the road.
Once harvested, there will be no future restocking of larch and there will need to be ongoing monitoring of remaining larch areas for further disease outbreaks.
Over the next couple of years, the felled areas will be replanted with native species including Scots pine, sessile oak, aspen, willow, and juniper. Birch and Rowan are expected to regenerate naturally but may be planted in areas where regeneration doesn’t occur. Regeneration of spruce may occur in some places and will be accepted but if it becomes dominant it will be thinned out or felled when it becomes economic to do so.. Larch regeneration may occur and will be monitored for future disease symptoms and cleared if found to be infected.
Where future extraction is likely to be cost effective planting will be carried out at a density and with species suitable to produce timber. Where ground conditions are more challenging and extraction not likely to be economic in the future then a more open native woodland including scrub species such as juniper and mountain willows will be planted.
The wildlife and nature of Ennerdale are really special to all the Wild Ennerdale Partners. Forestry England had not planned to fell this much woodland at one time, but is required to so that the disease doesn’t spread further or into other species. To protect the wildlife using the larch forest the forest is surveyed before felling to identify any occupied squirrel dreys and bird nests which are left standing and felled after the breeding seasons. Additional larch trees are also left standing to give squirrels a route to and from other areas of non larch trees. From long-term squirrel monitoring it is known that larch is not a preferred food source for Red Squirrels which will still have large areas of conifer seed to feed on. To control Grey squirrels Forestry England will continue its annual monitoring and grey squirrel control. Whilst areas of mature forest will be lost, some new open and scrub habitats will appear which will provide other species such as butterflies and birds with new habitat opportunities. Some of the larch being felled has an understorey of native broadleaf and scrub species which will provide the starting point for future woodland habitats.
Yes the Phytophthora disease doesn't affect the larch timber so it can be used in construction, fencing, pallets and woodfuel. Sawmills have to run infected timber separate to uninfected timber and then thoroughly clean and disinfect after a run of infected timber. The majority of the timber from the larch felling will be supplied to mills in Cumbria.
People who are staying at either Ennerdale YHA or Low Gillerthwaite Field Centre will be able to drive up the valley from Bowness Knott to where they are staying. The gate code for the gate at Bowness Knott will be given to you by the accommodation provider. If the forest road is within the risk zone of the the harvesting work there will be banks persons at either end of the affected section of road. These people will ask you to stop outside the risk zone until the harvesting activity has paused and it is safe for you to drive through. They will then direct you through the harvesting area. If you are walking, biking or riding up the valley you will be asked to take a detour when the harvesting work is happening between the Irish Bridge Junction east of the lake and Gillerthwaite. The diversion will be signposted and take you around the south side of the valley.
Forestry England will provide and update visitor information posters at Bleach Green and Bowness Knott car parks. When Bowness Knott is closed, Forestry England will provide temporary information at the car park entrance. In addition, visitor information will be posted on the Wild Ennerdale and Forestry England webpages and on social media. Forestry England will also erect signs at main routes off the A5086 to advise visitors when the Bowness Knott car park is closed.
Yes during 2013 and 2014 around 100 hectares of larch trees in the valley were affected by the destructive Phytophthora ramorum larch disease. To reduce the spread of this disease and risk that it may jump into another species Forestry England were required to fell the trees or kill them standing. At the time the forest industry judged the felling of the trees to be uneconomic so much of the infected areas were killed standing using a herbicide stem treatment method. This has left some large areas of standing deadwood which has become a valuable habitat for wildlife species that specialise in using deadwood habitats. To protect public safety buffer zones alongside public rights of way and forest roads were felled and left as lying deadwood.
Whilst we were sad to lose the larch trees the forest is regenerating underneath the dead trees. Forestry England have planted over 50,000 native trees under the areas of treated larch since 2014 and will continue to underplant trees until the forest is fully regenerated. Annual squirrel monitoring shows that although dead, the larch trees are still being used by squirrels as a route around the forest as the search for food..
Dead wood is an important indicator of biodiversity providing habitats for animals, insects, lichen, mosses, bryophytes and fungi. It also helps to store water and improves soil chemistry. Over summer 2013, Jenny Woodman , a student from Newcastle University carried out an investigation into the levels of dead wood in Ennerdale. Jenny discovered that in the plantation conifer forest dead wood was around 18m3 per hectare. Compare this to the ancient woodland of Side Wood where Jenny found the figure is just over 70m3 per hectare.
Jenny’s data compares favourably to guidelines suggested by the Forestry Commission of 40-100m3 within ancient semi-natural woodlands like Side Wood and 20-40m3 within managed plantations and secondary woodlands.