Plans to improve Belhus Woods Country Park

Belhus Park

ESSEX County Council is to begin a programme of improvements to their woodland estates. The programme is part of a long-term plan which aims to improve the habitats for insects, birds and mammals and a host of wildflowers associated with traditional woodland. It will also help conserve the historic character of the woodlands, many of which are designated as Ancient Semi Natural Woodland (ASNW) or Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The work will take place at woodlands across Essex: Barnston Hall Estate, Beaumont Estate, Belhus Woods Country Park, Boyles Court Estate, Chalkney Wood, Codham Hall Estate, Danbury Country Park, Partridge Green Estate and Thorndon Country Park.

Before starting work, the area will be surveyed for potential bat roosts and nesting birds and these will be protected where necessary. Safety notices will be erected for members of the public. Tracks and paths will then be opened up to help walking or cycling, and to support butterflies and spring flowers that require light open areas. Traditional woodland management techniques which have been used for centuries will be used to reduce over-crowding and improve habitats for special wildlife. This will include thinning1 and coppicing2. In some woodlands temporary deer fences will be erected to prevent damage to coppiced trees.

Councillor Simon Walsh, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for the Environment said: “Planning for woodland management involves taking a long-term vision as trees take a long time to grow and mature. What might appear as upheaval after woodland work in fact provides new opportunities for scarce and threatened wildlife including iconic spring flowers such as the bluebell and woodland butterflies and birds.”

Essex County Council is working with environmental specialists Place Services3 to manage the programme and it is also kindly supported by Ground Control4 who are providing sponsorship and volunteers to help look after the woodlands. Some of the timber from the felled trees will be sold at Essex Country Parks as firewood with any income raised contributing towards the costs of maintaining the woodland estate.

For full details of the work being carried out at each of the woodlands visit www.essexwoodlandproject.org/woodlands

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