Deangarden Wood project
This autumn we have pushed ahead with implementing one of our biggest and most exciting projects. Over 15 years, we will be working to restore the semi-natural ancient woodland at Deangarden Wood, High Wycombe into a more active, positive condition for wildlife & people.
Deangarden wood is owned by the Carington Estate and we are delivering the management plan in partnership with them. It is part of a planning agreement with Wycombe District Council which will also see the disused/abandoned ski slope restored to chalk grassland & scrub which is a real win for wildlife and the community.
Our involvement in this project came about through an approach to us by the developer of Wycombe Summit, Hambledon Land, who sought our help to scope, draft and evolve the Woodland Management Plan. Hambledon Land obtained the agreement of the landowner and negotiated the inclusion of the plan in the s106 which was attached to the planning permission for a housing development on adjoining land.
Our work has involved opening up the path network ahead of four new paths being declared public rights of way by Bucks County Council Rights of Way team in 2019. Some benches have been installed for walkers to enjoy 5 minutes rest along the way with more planned in the coming months. Shanly Homes staff spent two days here with us in the summer on “Be a Ranger” days to help us achieve this.
In the autumn, we were helped by our good friends at Janssen UK (Johnson & Johnson) who have sent multiple teams along on ‘Be a Ranger’ days. This is part of their Credo and enables them to also ‘Buy Social’ and support social enterprises like ourselves.
In November we were joined by a team from London Ambulance Service who benefitted greatly from the session where we coppiced and cleared and created log stacks and a dead hedge.
This January a team lead by David Sutherland from BCC including the Rights of Way team helped out too!
In addition to these groups we have hosted several groups of volunteers including Green Thursday, young people at NCS and some new local volunteers who have joined us over a few Saturdays too.
Look carefully and you’ll also see some of the various types of bird boxes we’ve made on “Be a Ranger days”. These are made as kits by our friends and neighbours at “Men In Sheds” – thanks guys! A couple of rustic oak- topped benches have also been installed.
Together we have cut down lots of trees – mostly squirrel and/or deer damaged young Sycamore and Ash. Where ground flora still persisted, we have created scallops and mini glades with hundreds of meters of dead hedges and many log piles. These are ideal refuges for wildlife such as hedgehogs and nesting birds such as wrens. We also had a few bonfires such has been the amount of arisings created. Now the sunlight (and rain) is pouring in and we hope the woodland will really start to respond in the spring.
By the end of December 2018, all four paths ,which are to be designated public footpaths, were completed – except for the last 20m of ‘green path’ at the end of the wood as it transitions in to the red line development area.
Work in this area is not part of our contract and this section will be completed with/by Berkeley Homes as part of the ski slope restoration process which will link up to the new path they are creating along Abbey Barn Lane. We will work closely with them over the coming months as the development proceeds.
The first stage of boundary management along the southern boundary was completed in March 2018, before the bird nesting season commenced and is looking good as a result of this work. The arisings have been placed in a large, long dead hedge which is both a barrier to people and a great habitat for wildlife.
We planted some thorn species along the boundary to complement the deadhedge and, in time, to grow into one big buffer. Unfortunately, these really struggled in the prolonged hot, dry summer despite being watered and mulched. They are still alive but need a good wet winter. We have undertaken additional understorey planting this winter including hawthorn, buckthorn, wych elm, field maple and blackthorn. We are not using plastic tree guards in a concerted effort to reduce waste from single use plastic but are instead using brash to keep the deer at bay. The site would benefit from deer and squirrel control about which we will liaise with the Carington Estate in 2019.
There are some remaining boundary trees (mostly Beech) which may well need to be removed or reduced in the future. We’ll keep an eye on them and liaise with the WDC Planning team and Carington Estate, if we have concerns. Felling or arboricultural works are preferable before any development takes place for obvious safety and practical reasons. It is a shame that we were unable to agree to more trees being felled/pollarded as part of the Woodland Management plan since this would undoubtedly have been beneficial to the wood both now and in the future including to the properties around the boundary.
In a recent storm, the top large bough of a Beech which we had wanted to fell has snapped and fallen into the development area…due in part to squirrel damage, which led to rot. We will liaise with Berkeley Homes and the Estate on this matter in the coming months and years.
The second phase of boundary management works was completed on 23rd November 2018. This was the highest risk zone closest to housing along Lime Avenue and Deangarden Rise. The area has been pretty well clear felled with a couple of Beech pollards retained. Due to the increasing impact of Ash die back, we took the view, due to the proximity of housing, to remove the ash rather than pollard/monolith. This is in part due to the increased risk of the trees becoming infected via new wounds (and subsequent secondary infection by fungus) from cutting and then becoming brittle and a higher risk to people and operatives.
We then planted 50 whips with the help of local volunteers. These are a mixture of hawthorn, blackthorn and Wych elm. Together with the natural regeneration and coppice especially of Lime, this zone will transform into a thicket coppice margin over the coming years for the benefit of many species. We may plant extra trees if required but it is best practice to see how nature deals with it for the next couple of years.
In December, we also installed a wooden vehicle and kissing gate at the entrance of Lime Avenue, a second kissing gate and some post & rail fencing along the southern boundary (near the concrete lined pond). This has been planted with mixed native hedgerow species. See photos of the kissing gates below.
This boundary access work is designed to future proof the site and to concentrate users through the key routes. This was a key concept in creating the management plan which seeks to protect the site from the many hundreds of new houses and new residents that will be built and live there in the coming years. The boundary is less porous and harder for people to exploit, e.g. on motorbikes, or to dump their waste which often happens in urban woodlands. You can’t see it in the top picture, but there is a large log & brash pile behind the scrub making it virtually impenetrable by people but fab for wildlife too.
Ladderboards made from recycled wood from a local social enterprise (Colwill & Co) were put up for the main entrances in January to demarcate the site.
We have also, removed a huge amount of rubbish, mostly arisings from the old ski slope but including long term rubbish such as a can of Stones Best Bitter beer from 1983! As a result of our efforts, the woodland has pretty much been tidied – there are a few oddments left and sadly new things arrive all the time but we hope to ‘complete’ this in the next 6-12 months as part of on-going works.
In all, 261 volunteers from the community have given over 1117 hours to help us complete these tasks.