A long-term plan to restore Whippendell Wood in Watford back to its true and natural historic state is now underway.
Watford Borough Council, which maintains the wood, will be working alongside Natural England, Forestry Commission and Woodland Trust, and will be gradually removing invasive non-native trees over the next five years. Native trees will be planted or allowed to grow back naturally over that time.
The non-native conifers add little benefit to the plants and wildlife in the local area and over the years have stopped native plants from growing and wildlife from flourishing. Returning the ancient woodland to its natural state will be beneficial for the local area. Native trees such as birch and rowan will quickly start to grow in the area.
Ancient woodland is land that has been continuously wooded since 1600. Restoration involves the gradual removal of conifers from a plantation, to allow a greater amount of light to penetrate the woodland canopy, encouraging specialist ancient woodland species to recover and reverse years of damage.
Elected Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor said: “Whippendell Woods is a real gem which is enjoyed by thousands of people each year. However, there is work to be done to make it a healthy woodland. Looking after our environment and making Watford a greener town is so important so I’m really pleased we are starting these works. Woodlands need to be managed to ensure they can be enjoyed by future generations. The scheme will help us to keep the woods healthy for many more years.”
The woodland was surveyed in 2018 by the Woodland Trust’s Ancient Woodland Restoration Project. It provided vital information which complements the council’s existing management plan on how best to restore the ancient woodland. The aim is to improve the structural and species diversity of the woodland to support more wildlife, improve access, create better links with the park and wider landscape, and to protect this Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
The unique undisturbed soils and ecosystems found in these sites form the UK’s richest land habitat. It is home to a host of rare, protected and threatened wildlife – 256 species of conservation concern are associated with ancient woodland; species that are slow to react to change, find it difficult to adapt, and are not mobile enough to move to other locations to survive. Ancient woodland now accounts for just 2% of our land area, a loss fuelled by the fashion for planting fast growing conifers in an industrial age. Once destroyed, it can never be replaced.
Whippendell Wood is designated a SSSI by Natural England, which means it is protected by law to conserve its wildlife and geology. For more information and the latest updates about the project, visit www.watford.gov.uk/cassioburyprojects