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HOEF Falconer-25

Head forester Stephen Coffey reports on progress.

Wow, what a long planting season we’ve had. We started in the last week of November and finished in the third week of April – which meant we could plant over 140,000 trees and create a further 314 acres of new native broadleaved woodland.

That makes it one of our best years ever, beaten only by the record 325 acres planted in 2011.

Alongside our dedicated planting gangs, our volunteer planters made a significant contribution this year, and it was great to see some familiar faces on our corporate sponsor days from the likes of Dennis Publishing Ltd and Phoenix Group.

As well as new woodland creation, we have to look after our mature woodlands. To complement the hazel coppicing undertaken over the winter, we planted over 1,000 hazel saplings to thicken up the coppice areas. And, as part of our continued efforts to convert conifer plantations back to native broadleaves, we also replanted a clear fell (an area that had previously been cleared of trees) with over 2,000 native broadleaves.

As I write this, the newly planted saplings are all flourishing, and so far it looks as if it will be a good take. And, as you might expect, we’re already planning the next 300 acres for the coming planting season – and hoping we can get past the 325 marker… with your support I am sure we will!

Every day’s a school day… learn the life cycle of a woodland!

Seed

The fertilised embryo of a tree: it has a hard case for protection, but is still very vulnerable to animals and the elements light, warmth and moisture are crucial for germination once it’s been dispersed by wind, water, animals and people. First, the seed will grow a root to seek moisture and nutrients and then it will develop a shoot which will grow towards the light.

Seedling

The first stage of growth is the most vulnerable stage, with threats from hungry animals and insects, and fire, flood and drought. The shoot hardens, changes colour and develops protective bark. It develops branches and leaves to absorb light. The roots stay mainly in upper soil to absorb most water and nutrients although one root will carry on down looking for anchorage as the seedling grows taller.

Sapling

Either naturally set or newly planted trees generally over 50cm tall, and up to 5cm diameter. The trunk thickens and branches develop. A sapling is not mature enough to reproduce, and is vulnerable to the same threats as a seedling.

Thicket

The woodland is more established and the tree canopies broaden and start to fill any available space – and compete with each other for sunlight. This means light at the forest floor is restricted, and natural thinning starts as less hardy saplings fail or are suppressed.

Mature

Each tree will grow as much as its environment permits. A tree is said to be mature once it can produce seed, so flowers develop, fruit forms and reproduction begins.

A mature woodland is one that has reached its full potential and is full of big tress that tower over us.

Veteran

Trees well past maturity are said to be senescent and in decline. This is an important part of the life cycle of the forest, as the death of one tree will mean more light to the forest floor to germinate tree seeds that will eventually fill the available space in the woodland.