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Conifers cleared at ancient wood
Conifers cleared at Hatfield Forest
Hatfield Forest is using a coppice with standards management system

Hatfield Forest is returning a conifer plantation to native woodland thanks to a grant from the Forestry Commission.

In the post war years thousands of conifers were planted after concerns that the country would not have enough timber in the event of another war.

Head Warden Henry Bexley said they have been heavily thinning the conifer and the turkey oaks.

"We are in the process of converting it back to some semblance of an ancient woodland," said Henry.

"It is what we call a 'paws' - a plantation on an ancient woodland side," he added.

Where the conifers have not been thinned out, the wood is very dark and dense and full of thorn, whilst the forest floor is devoid of wildlife.

"There's a few dog's mercury, which is actually an ancient woodland indicator, but there's very little of it," said Henry.

"We're restoring this to a native coppice mix which is going to take a number of years.

The Forestry Commission planted some 25 hectares of conifers in Hatfield Forest and in Wall Wood, just south of the main forest during 1950s and 1960s.

Some of the conifer tree planting went on as late as 1966, on land leased from the National Trust in Hatfield Forest.

"This is the first phase of it, so the felling and extractions have been done now. It's just the tidying up operation," he added.

This coming year they will be fencing the site off to protect if from the deer.

Next autumn it will be planted up with a coppice mix.

"With the work that has been going on there's a tremendous amount of insects and berries and things like that, that are available for the birds.

Conifers were planted in the post war years
The dense conifer blocks out the sounds of birds and aircraft

"Whereas in the thicket it is difficult for the birds to get around and the food source isn't there for them," said Henry.

"There's a good seed bank in here, it just needs light to get down to the floor and make everything germinate.

"Watch this space it will be a picture of colour in here next spring," he added.

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