Our climate is changing and in the future the climate of the south east of England will be more like that which is currently experienced in southern France. The effects of climate change are already being felt, for example in the south east of England, Oak now comes into leaf nearly a month earlier than it did in the 1950’s.
At Willows Green, Forest Research and Forestry England are doing work to understand how these changes are impacting the woodland and what we can do to better prepare the woodland to cope.
A demonstration area has been set up to show forest management actions that may be taken to try help a woodland typical of is part of England, adjust to our changing climate.
The demonstration area at Willows Green is part of a Climate Change Adapation Trail which starts a few minutes’ drive from the Alice Holt Forest Visitor Centre in Alice Holt Arboretum Car Park. It is one of several demonstration areas which are being used to learn more about the process and impact of implementing climate change adaptation actions in forestry, and in turn to encourage land managers to think about what measures might work best in their woodlands.
What forest management actions are being demonstrated?
At Willows Green, one of the main changes are hotter drier summers. Beech trees can suffer in these conditions, especially if there are repeated episodes of drought.
First, some of the beech trees were removed a few years ago in a process called ‘thinning’. In 2018 new trees were planted to replace them. This ‘underplanting’ is of oak trees which have been grown from native English seed sources and from seed sources from further south in Europe (France) which have a climate like the one which Alice Holt is likely to have in the future.
We will be monitoring the trees to find out more about how the trees from different seed sources cope with the changes in our climate. There may be positive impacts such as improved growth and survival or negative impacts like more damage from a late spring frost or pest outbreak. We will also be looking at how the growth of the newly planted trees compares to the growth of naturally regenerating beech trees beneath the mature beech woodland (trees that develop from beech seeds that fall and germinate on the site).
How can I visit the demonstration area (Stop 8)?
The adaptation trail starts in Alice Holt Arboretum but Stop 8 starts in the forest park. Park in the first car park on the right, after the car park barriers. Small purple discs mark the ‘Adaptation Trail’ to Stop 8. Walk up Orchard Ride on the Easy Access Discovery Trail to the picnic bench / Gruffalo’s Child and turn left, downhill.
When you reach the crossroads with the large Gruffalo and Stick Man sculptures on your left, turn right into the beech woodland. Stop 8 is along this path, on the bend. As you look down the hill, the English Oak is planted in the tubes in the clearing to your left, the French Oak is slightly further down the hill to your right.
To visit the other stops on the ‘Climate Change Adaptation Trail’, a self-guided trail guide and associated worksheet are available to download from the Forest Research website.
The trail is set within a working forest, please follow all safety signs and wear appropriate footwear. Please watch out for other visitors on foot, bike and horse and also any vehicles on the forest roads.
We hope this inspires you to find out more about the demonstration work, to come along to look at what is happening. Let us know what you think or ideas to get involved using our feedback survey.