As befitting a large, ancient, semi-natural woodland with diverse habitats, a wide range of essential woodland management jobs are undertaken throughout the year at Ruislip Woods.
All works carried out in Ruislip Woods are directed and guided by various influences, including:
- Ruislip Woods National Nature Reserve Long Term Management Plan - adopted in 1982 and setting out the woodland management vision and plan over the next 100 years
- a rolling five year plan.
- Ruislip Woods Management Advisory Group; an independent group of conservation specialists.
- Ruislip Woods Community Woodland Officer (CWO) and Staff; together with our regular groups of volunteers, the CWO and the Woodland Rangers carry out the practical jobs each day of the week.
Many of these jobs are season-dependent and some of the main jobs regularly carried out are highlighted below.
- Tree thinning
- Construction and maintenance of woodland furniture
- Clearance of non-native plant species
- Grazing, mowing and flailing
- Path and bridleway maintenance
This is the opening up of small areas (or compartments) in the woodland, usually of a few acres in size, carried out during the winter (November through till February). The work is undertaken by the use of chainsaws and hand tools, including bow saws, loppers and ropes. Trees, mainly hornbeam, are cut down to about knee height, so leaving the base of the tree and all its root system intact. Wood over approximately 6 inches in diameter is stacked on the woodland floor near to where the tree fell, and the remaining branches are burnt. The woodpiles rot down and provide excellent habitat piles for a wide range of woodland flora and fauna. New, vigorous shoots sprout the following spring from the remains of the tree base or 'stool' and would eventually become mature tree stems.
Coppicing in Ruislip Woods is carried out over a 20-year cycle, which means that those areas that are coppiced are allowed to grow for 20 years before they are once again coppiced. Ruislip Woods, like many ancient, semi-natural woodlands in Britain, have been continuously coppiced like this for hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of years. Over this time our native woodland wildlife has adapted to this regular opening up of the woodland canopy, allowing different light levels to reach the woodland floor, and so maintaining a wide diversity of microhabitats within the woodlands.
Selected areas of woodland, often along path edges, are lightly thinned, and typically scalloped edges are created that benefit woodland edge-favouring wildlife. Tree thinning can be carried out at any time during the year, although important periods of time for wildlife, such as with nest building, are avoided.
The term 'woodland furniture' is an all-encompassing term used to describe man-made features created for the benefit of visitors to the woodland or to assist in the management of the woodland. Woodland furniture includes temporary and permanent fences, bridges, styles, gates, posts, living and dead hedges, rustic benches and boardwalks. Virtually all furniture is made out of wood, nearly all of which is derived from trees that grew in Ruislip Woods. Helping to create and maintain woodland furniture is an all year round task, but one that is generally enjoyable and satisfying; our Volunteer Woodland Rangers are particularly adept at this work.
This is an important and never-ending job carried out year-round. It is important to maintain, where possible, a woodland community of native plants – those that the local ecology is well adapted to live with and thrive – and to eradicate the more persistent and invasive species where we find them. Non-native plants from various parts of the world regularly invade the woodlands, as well as the grasslands, wetlands and heathland, and quite often, if left unchecked, will dominate the local area to the detriment of our native flora. Regular culprits include Japanese knotweed, the sycamore tree, turkey oak, red oak, escaped variegated garden plants, rhododendron and cherry laurel. Non-native plants are pulled out of the ground, trying to pull up as much of the root system with it as is possible. Japanese knotweed is cut back regularly with the use of scythes. Non-native trees are usually cut at the base. Material is either burned, chipped or taken off-site and disposed of appropriately.
These are the various ways we use to keep vegetation down and to halt the encroachment of weeds and trees on to non-woodland areas. Grazing is carried out in the summer months (May to September) by a herd of cattle, usually 15-20 strong. The 2006 summer season had a 20-strong herd of Belgian Blue bullocks that grazed Poor's Field and kept in check grasses, bramble, young tree shoots and weeds from covering the acid grassland and heath land.
Mowing and flailing are used elsewhere throughout the woodland complex in much the same way as grazing – to keep the annual weedy species in check. Grub Ground, an area of grassland within Park Wood, is flailed annually, usually during the autumn and winter periods.
One of our never-ending jobs that involves keeping brambles, nettles and tree branches in check from crossing paths and bridleways throughout the Ruislip Woods.
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