For over two years, the Duchy of Cornwall has been working with its agricultural tenants, Natural England and consulting with the Dartmoor National Park Authority, to develop an exciting landscape scale plan which works with natural processes, to expand Wistman’s Wood to bring about its increased resilience and enhance the surrounding areas.
Wistman’s Wood is an ancient oak woodland which covers over three hectares of the West Dart Valley on Dartmoor, Devon. It is a National Nature Reserve (NNR), a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) in recognition of its significance for nature conservation. It is often referred to as one of the South West’s last remaining examples of temperate rainforest.
The woodland contains very rare Atlantic mosses and lichens, but Wistman’s is a small and isolated remnant, making the woodland vulnerable to risks like fire, disease and climate change, increasing the need to carefully improve its resilience. The Duchy aims to regenerate and at least double the size of Wistman’s by 2040, including expanding wood-pasture habitat.
David Cope, Head of Sustainability, The Duchy of Cornwall says: “We are pleased to share details on how we will regenerate and encourage the expansion of Wistman’s Wood on Dartmoor. Wistman’s Wood is an incredibly special place for both nature and people. The woodland provides a home for some very rare species, making this work extremely important for our goal of a net zero and nature-rich estate.
The expansion of Wistman’s Wood and creation of additional wood pasture is only possible because we’ve developed our plans in partnership with our farm tenants, Natural England and the Dartmoor National Park Authority over the past two years.”
The Duchy of Cornwall’s plans to increase resilience at Wistman’s Wood include:
Regeneration and Expansion
-Encouraging natural oak and rowan regeneration whilst maintaining the semi-open wood-pasture conditions the rare lichen communities need, through appropriate levels of cattle and pony grazing. -Cattle grazing will be controlled using a NoFence, wireless electric fencing system, supported through the Farming in Protected Landscapes fund.
-Guarding selected existing regeneration using Cactus guards.
Complementing natural regeneration of the woodland through the taking of seed under licence and growing it for re-planting on site.
National Nature Reserve Expansion
-The Duchy is delighted to be working with Natural England and its tenant of Cherrybrook and Longaford Newtakes within which Wistman’s Wood is situated, to enable the expansion of the National Nature -Reserve status beyond Wistman’s itself so that a truly integrated approach to management can be taken.
Woodland Creation on Beardown Farm
-Nine hectares of new wood pasture creation on the west side of the River Dart immediately opposite Wistman’s Wood, with more areas proposed further along the riparian corridor across other Duchy farms.
-Managing the grazing of livestock to achieve woodland regeneration, and enhancement of species diversity within surrounding vegetation including the valley mires system.
Through wood pasture provision, creating shade and shelter for livestock.
Public Access and Interpretation
-Improved surfacing of 1,000 metres of the existing public footpath to create enhanced and better structured public access with updated interpretation information available to the visiting public.
Coniferous Woodland Management
-Over time, felling will commence on the south eastern corner of the Duchy managed Beardown Plantation, to be re-planted with native broadleaves to soften the landscape and create greater diversity of habitat.
John Malseed, Duchy of Cornwall Tenant Farmer at Cherrybrook and Longaford Newtake who is working closely with the Duchy to ensure the Wistman’s Wood regeneration plan comes to fruition says: “My role within this project is to provide grazing tools in the form of native upland cattle and ponies. The cattle, utilising the NoFence collars, will allow me to target their grazing and play my part in achieving the vision of the Wistman’s Wood Management Plan, while still being able to farm in a sustainable manner.”
Tony Juniper, Chairman, Natural England says: “Wistman’s Wood National Nature Reserve is a magical fragment of ancient temperate rainforest. This exciting plan to allow the wood to expand through regeneration will give it long-term resilience and provide a wealth of benefits for people and nature. Reserves like this one will act as the battery packs powering nature recovery across the country.
“Success in restoring nature at scale can only really happen through partnerships and we are delighted to be working with the Duchy of Cornwall and its tenants in developing what is a fine example of farming and nature recovery going forward together hand in hand. The enhancement of this spectacular landscape and its habitats will enable people to connect with a site rich in wildlife and historic interest for long into the future.”
The Duchy of Cornwall’s vision has been and remains to be Sustainable Stewardship – for Communities, Enterprise and Nature. Its sustainability goal is a net zero and nature rich Estate where communities and enterprises flourish in support of a sustainable world.
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