September in the Forest

Here we are recovering from a rather wet day in August which was sent to try the organisers of the Far Forest Show. Considering everything it went pretty well, with a good few punters wandering among the stands. Along with the poultry tent, the ferret racing, the vintage caravans and the ‘duck dog’ demonstration, there were some excellent cakes on sale, which makes it well worth the entrance fee in my book. The Wyre Community Land Trust’s stand offered a chance to pat a sheep or watch oak logs being cleft by hand (using those fine ancient tools, the froe, draw knife and shaving horse) into pallets for fencing.

The purpose of all this, apart from its entertainment value, was to engage with local people and help them to find out about two aspects of the Trust’s work which are slowly and quietly transforming the Wyre Forest for good. As I’ve written before in these articles, the Forest includes among its acres of broadleaves and conifers a number of meadows and orchards, which contribute valuable habitats in addition to the woodland and help to give us the variety of wildlife which we so enjoy. The best way to keep the wildflowers in these grasslands is to put sheep or cattle on them at specific times of the year, which can be adjusted to allow certain species to seed or, for instance, for young adders to find their way safely into cover. The WCLT has a herd of Dexter cattle (58 at the last count) who spend their time doing the good work of munching pastures belonging to public and private landowners and converting grass into beef. The Wyre is such a complicated forest that no commercial outfit would bother with the many negotiations, grant applications and animal movements needed to make it all work. Good results are already being seen, with rich flower meadows being conserved and allowed to spread, and the attendant butterflies and other species thriving alongside them.

The other theme is that of timber production and use. In common with most woods in the UK, the Wyre Forest has some areas that are managed productively and others that aren’t managed at all. What we have here is a sustainable resource which could provide not only firewood, fencing and garden poles and but top quality timber for buildings and furniture. Markets need to be developed and small businesses encouraged. The result of increased production will be a change in the forest landscape but that won’t necessarily be a bad thing. The needs of wildlife and those who want to enjoy the woods can be taken into account in a holistic planning process.

It’s possible you may have an opinion on this! Please communicate your thoughts about the forest’s future to the Wyre Forest Landscape Partnership via their questionnaire at www.wflp.org.uk or collect a paper version from St George’s Hall, Bewdley or Cleobury Country, Cleobury Mortimer by the end of this month.

Linda Iles