Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

Clearing the way

Posted: December 21, 2023 at 13:47 pm Author: Oscar Adams

Silk Wood is stirring. Two years after the loss of its ash trees, this community woodland is poised for a comeback as we embark on the first phase of a three-year regeneration project.

There has been quite a drastic change in the landscape down at the Silk Wood Community Planting Project site. This area was once a dense woodland of ash and following the felling in 2021 due to ash dieback, was left fallow for 2 years to allow the soil to recover. This winter, the first of three areas will be replanted by schools, community groups and volunteers.

Silk Wood Community Planting Project before mulching

During the fallow period, dense brambles and vegetation have engulfed the area, which made it almost completely inaccessible. To ready the site for planting, we brought in heavy machinery to clear the area. The machine, an RT 400 Mulcher, grinds timber, stumps, standing trees and dense vegetation into fine chip. While usually used on commercial sites where productivity is crucial, it was hired for the community woodland site as we wanted the project to be as accessible as possible. The mulcher grinds aboveground biomass only and is designed to cause as little soil disturbance as possible.

Silk Wood Community Planting Project after mulching

Over just three days, 2.6 hectares were cleared. What is left behind is the chippings from everything that was mulched, and the remaining trees. We retained as many healthy oaks, field maple, hawthorn, blackthorn, and hazel as possible. The few remaining ash that were initially retained were removed due to their eventual decline in health. We're thrilled that we do have some mature trees standing. A forest with a varied composition, be it different ages, species or inclusion of open space increases resilience against changing climatic conditions and emerging threats. A diverse structure also helps mitigate damage from wind and is fantastic for wildlife.

Silk Wood Community Planting Project after mulching

The new open space provides a blank canvas and will enable groups of all abilities to use the site to plant trees, learn about forestry and enjoy being part of the woodland regeneration process.

The future of Silk Wood is in our hands. With the first planting phase underway, the community has a unique opportunity to shape a resilient, diverse, and accessible woodland for generations to come.