There is a large area of unmanaged woodland in the UK. The government is very keen to encourage owners to bring this under management to increase its productivity and improve its biodiversity. Unmanaged woodland is rarely productive or achieves its full biodiversity potential.
Grant aid is available in many cases. Usually the minimum woodland area needs to be at least 3Ha although this can be made up of a number woods not smaller than 0.5Ha if they are all on the same holding or farm. The rules vary depending whether you are in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.
The first step is to apply for a Woodland Management Grant. This is a one-off payment to cover the cost of a professional forester visiting the woods and producing a 10 year plan in conjunction with the owner. The current grant is £1000 for woods up to 50Ha. In most cases this will cover the entire cost of producing the plan so is cost neutral to the owner.
To apply you do have to register your property or woodland with the Rural Payments Agency and get a Single Business Identifier number. This is not difficult but does take a little time and your professional forestry advisor can help with this.
If your woodland does not meet the minimum size requirements or you do not want to go through the registration process then there are other possible options. The Woodland Trust Morewoods Scheme offers help to landowners wanting to plant new woodland.
This is in the form of either providing trees & shelters for you to plant yourself or by a supply & plant option using their contractors. In each case the landowner will pay a proportion of the cost and agree to a covenant to maintaining the trees for a set period of time.
You can, of course, just decide to plant trees yourself without outside help.
Some examples of damage to saplings, trees and flora
Protecting trees from deer
Culling deer is a proven and, if done correctly, effective way of controlling deer numbers and reducing damage to both trees and the valuable understory of flora in woodlands.
However culling is not the only option and, in some circumstances, other methods of damage prevention may need to be considered. The felling or coppicing of an area of woodland can lead to this becoming a deer lawn, attracting deer from a wide radius to the new growth. A valuable agricultural crop may become palatable to the deer for only a short period of time. In these cases shooting alone may not be able to reduce damage to acceptable levels. The area itself may be deemed too small or unsafe for shooting to take place. Deer fencing an area or providing individual tree guards for new planting are possible options.
Deer fencing needs to be substantial to keep out deer. In most cases it needs to be at least 1.9m high with a mesh size no bigger than 150mm. Netting is usually wire if the fence is intended to be permanent although plastic netting is available and cheaper and can be used where trees need to be protected for a shorter time period, such as coppice regrowth. Thought needs to be given to dealing with high ground on one side which could make it easy for deer to jump in, trees falling over the fence and filling in gaps where the fence crosses streams, gullies etc.
Thought needs to be given to the costs of a deer fence as opposed to individual tree shelters. Generally it is cheaper to individually protect trees on smaller areas (less than 1 Ha). Dead hedging, where branches from felled trees or coppice are placed around the felled area as a barrier are rarely effective.
How long a deer fence needs to stay in place will depend on the growth rate of the trees and the deer species present. With Roe and Muntjac the trees may have outgrown the damage stage after 5 years or so but this might be considerably longer with the larger species due to fraying and bark stripping. The fence will need to be checked regularly to ensure it has not been breached by trees falling on it, snow pressure or gates left open. A competent deer manager will be able to advise on this.
Deer fencing can be expensive but, if your woodland has a Woodland Management Plan, capital grants of up to £7.20 per metre are available from the Forestry Commission.
There are an estimated 43,000 Muntjac in the UK
Young trees are very prone to damage by deer browsing. The young fresh growth is particularly attractive to them. If fencing is not a viable option then individual tree shelters may be required. The height of the tree shelter is crucial. A 1.2m shelter will protect against Roe and Muntjac, Fallow and Sika require 1.5m high and Red 1.8m. Anything lower than 1.2m will not protect the trees.
Stakes need to be sufficiently robust to resist deer rubbing against them and long enough to anchor the shelter in what might be wet ground or a windy site. The drawback of the larger shelters is not only the cost but that they restrict tree growth and are not suitable for all species. They are also prone to wind damage on an exposed site. If your woodland is covered under a Woodland Grant Scheme then grants of up to £1.60 per shelter may be available.
Another key factor in control is the seasons during which the different species of deer and genders deer can be shot.
How can we help?
We assist a number of landowners through licences they have granted to us to manage the deer on their land.
For new landowners our approach is to we meet with them on site to assess the scale of the problem as a first step. Following that discussion the next stage is usually to agree a management plan and the terms of a formal licence to protect both parties interests.
Our services as usually free and a new licence often requires us to invest in some high seats from which to cull deer. We normally suggest we keep the deer that are culled in lieu of any form of payment and make arrangements for game dealers to collect the tagged carcasses from us ready for entry into the food chain.
What we will not do is to take on the responsibility for managing your deer if we feel that for any reason we cannot do what your need us to do safely, effectively and humanely.
Should you want to have an early discussion please feel free to