Coed Hen Ddoeth, Forest garden and Sustainable Woodlot in ancient Oak Forest
The mature oak forest of Coed Hen Ddoeth has some superb old trees of oak, larch and scots pine with a mixed under story of alder, hazel, birch and a diverse ground flora of mosses. Although the forest is currently under great stress due stock infestation, there are great opportunities for regeneration with restoration of surrounding dry stone wall and erection of fencing. The forest may already contain some rare species but a through survey will be needed to ascertain this. There is great opportunity for supporting a wide range of species bird, insect, mammal and plant due to its varied habitat and topography including cliff faces, streams, wet woodland, exposed hilly sites and sheltered areas. There is also great opportunity for sustainable timber production and food generation utilising existing stands of trees and good microclimates on the upper south eastern edge of the woodland for food production. To utilise the landscape to its fullest and take advantage of this wide variety of habitats I have suggested management strategies and the appropriate projects to be implemented with firstly consideration of wildlife, energy efficient planning to make implementation as simple as possible for you, and the climate, topography, soil condition, wind and water. I have included a base map showing the whole site with a key labelling each aspect. A floral key to be used for identify planting patterns and I have also included further detail on the different zones in close ups of each area. I have then provided you with a basic outline of the action plan although this may change as we discover more about your forest.
The forest has two dwelling places, work shops, access routes and woodland rides designed to enhance wildlife, conservation areas, man made nesting sites, trout pools, lagoons, the means for propagating trees and plants, timber harvest, and food producing systems for both animal and man.
I have included a list of useful references to assist you.
This is rough guide of the tasks I recommend completing in your forest to achieve your aims. The order I have suggested provides a rough framework although many jobs will be carried at more or less the same time or continuously.
- Rebuild the walls Kick the fluffy maggot bags out! (sheep)
AS soon as you get them out your forest can begin to regenerate, saplings will start to appear and the ground flora will begin to diversify. To get the job done for free and quickly I could use my community interest company the Cynefin Permaculture Project to apply for a grant for you. Then we could join up with either the BCTV or syrcas Circus to teach courses in dry stone walling. This would benefit your local community and get the work done in no time. I could apply for the grant for you whilst I am in Guatemala during the rainy season as I won’t be as busy. And then hopefully it would be through by the time I return in six months. In areas where a wall wont do, use brash hedging made from left over’s from the logging and coppicing as explain further down.
- Mushroom logs
It is best to get these in early so they can be growing whilst you are involved in your other projects. There are many species of mushroom you can grow and you can also sell them at a high price! in particular chicken of the woods. Shitake and oyster mushroom, all three will grow in oak, the chicken of the woods will do best in a living tree. If you cut an oak down to leave a stump of about a metre and then drill holes into it and impregnate it with the spores and cover the holes with wax it will begin to grow fruit within six months to ay year. The fruits will be ready for eating in about 1-2 years. With the shitake and oyster inoculate freshly cut logs that were cut during late winter. And then store them next to your pools, after about a year soak them in the water to shock them into fruiting.
- Fell large Norway spruce in zone 2 workshop area
Be very careful of contaminating the stream with debris and sediment as you can seriously affect the trout if they are spawning in the area. Selective logging is better than clear fell. You could lay some of the logs along the stream and pool and mound the soil up against them leaving a trench on the northern side. This trench will collect acidic run of from your work and the mound will prevent contamination. Then plant the mound with willow herb, meadow sweet, bull rushes, iris, sedges, grasses and reeds to support the bank and also to condition the soil back to its former glory. These plants will also filter and detoxify the water and provide shelter for the fish. You could do some transplantation but also spread seeds which you can either find or buy online from suppliers listed in the appendix.
- Build brash hedges
Use the brash from your felling to construct brash hedges in areas where sheep may be getting in. This type of hedging will be ideal along the western edge of your forest to protect it from sheep getting in from the other side. Brash hedges are constructed from your left over’s from logging and coppicing. They are made by sticking straight poles into the ground about a metre high and 60cm apart and wedge the brash in between. These will last for around four years as they are but if you transplant brambles along them so they scramble of the top they will eventually turn into a bramble mound which will last much longer and provide you and the birds with a delicious harvest. These hedges are also great nesting sites and provide a microclimate for forest flowers. These hedges can also be used to keep deer out of newly coppiced areas and orchards. They also act like a habitat pile being a good habitat for hedgehogs, insects and amphibians.
- Create lagoons
Once you have removed the spruce the water level will rise considerably and the willows will be too young to have much effect on it. Construct a series of lagoons in the spruce impoverished area to help with drainage, if you do install drainage pipes in the land to help with construction then divert the flow into these pools instead of the stream to stop the stream being contaminated. And safely set aside the clay for later use on your cob house. You could store it with old bale wrap or plastic to ensure it does not dry out to much. Then plant acid bog tolerant plants and trees on the banks such as willows, rowan, alder and reeds, bulrushes and irises, that will condition the soil, also plant willow herb and meadow sweet. Use rotten logs and branches, or any spare brash to make habitat piles in this wet environment and you will be surprised at how many newts make there homes under them.
- Build access road in zone 2
- Build workshops and wood processing area.
- Plant the area with weeping willows
You requested eucalyptus but they need very good drainage and alkaline soil, and as much sunlight as they can get if they are to grow fast. If you planted them here, they might just survive but would be very slow growing and would never really thrive. You would be better to plan some beautiful weeping willows. You can pop them straight in after you have felled and they will eventually soak up the access moisture, they grow really fast and thrive in the acid boggy environment. They will also look sunning and you can coppice and pollard them until your heart is content. They are also the second best tree for insects next to the mighty oak.
- Make compost toilets and tree bogs for workers
If your go to have a lot of people on site you will need toilets. Situate the compost toilets where you need the compost and where you will need them as a human. Humanure can only be used on trees and not on other crops to prevent pathogens. One scoop of humanure a year per fruit tree will make a great difference to the yield. Situate the tree bogs where the manure can be absorbed trees. i.e. in well drained ground amongst trees.
- Set up the polytunnel
The area will still be very wet so dig a ditch where the poly tunnel will go and mound up the earth and put the tunnel on the top so the plants won’t be standing on water. Build a bridge across the various streams and tributaries. Once you have your polytunnel you can start getting the trees and shrubs in. If you buy them young they will be much cheaper and easy to transport. Contact Bangor forest garden they can hook you up with contacts for unusual and useful species. You can also use the polytunnel to graft species, taking root stocks of strong native species and grafting on the desired high yielding species.
- Fell Norway spruce on western side
By now you will undoubtedly be needing more wood for the next operations, when felling the Norway spruce on the western edge once again take care not to contaminate the stream. Plant the area with willow to be used later on for coppice. This area will also be very valuable for birds. .
- Build guest house and set up area for volunteers and your own temporary accommodation.
- Get a pig!
Borrow or get your own pig and use electric fencing to get it to plough zone 1 where your forest garden will be. Do small patches at a time and Get it to go under the trees where the old forest meets the clearing, after it has cleared an area sow the ground with vetches, clovers, yarrow, hog weed, foxgloves and comfrey, all those delightful woodland flowers that you can buy in a mix. Just make sure it contains lots of nitrogen fixers such as members of the vetch family and clovers.
10 Putting in the horse logging track in zone 4 the upper woodland ride.
You suggested you would like to get a vehicle track through here, but I would advise not to as there are many old trees and wonderful mosses and I feel it would damage the aesthetics of the area and also compromise the richness of the habitat. Therefore I recommend all work be done by horse. There is a lady in the area called Barbara who is a professional horse logger and she can also help you with your other materials. When you open up this track be careful not create a wind tunnel that will damage the other trees. And leave old trees removing the younger ones to allow room for growth.
Create a scallop shaped ride out of the trees to create microclimate and aid species diversity. These warm small woodland glades will attract much wildlife. If there are alders here coppice them as they will release nitrogen into the soil. Sow bare earth with the seeds as described for the forest garden in zone 1. Then use all the available microclimates such as around rocks and between dead trees, areas with deep good soil to plant the tree species rowan, elder, and hawthorn, beneath them towards the centre of the ride plant gorse, bilberries and heathers. Planted in this way they will make a sealed edge preventing wind damage and enhancing the climate. Note: in the winter when your deer are hungry and chewing your bark cut the gorse back and put it threw a mangle and feed it to them. Gorse is more nutritious than oats! You will also be releasing nitrogen into the soil ready for the plants in the spring.
12 Hang up Bird, owl and bat boxes
Once that you are clear on which trees are going and which are staying and where your clearings will be you can hang your boxes. Ensure that they face a clearing to ensure a clear flight path. The barn owl boxes need to face into the field and the bat boxes south east. You can also position them around the tree so the bats can move if they are to warm or cold. North facing boxes are good for hibernating. Please see the appendix for full details.
13 Build cob house
This is another task that could be completed by running a course in building with cob. Such courses are very popular and people will travel far and wide to gain experience in this skill. You could invite a professional to teach a course and have your house built in the process, using the clay taken from where the lagoons are going to be. Yet again you could utilise the Cynefin permaculture project C.I.C to achieve this aim.
14. Begin to plant the forest garden
Planting and maintaining the forest garden will be an on going job, but you can begin round about now. Mark out the area you will be planting trees in and plant gorse. These trees will act as nursery species for your more delicate trees, also coppice any alder you are going to coppice. Begin to plant your fruit and nut trees going from the outside edge inwards to prevent wind damage. Leave about four metres between each tree and plant the tallest trees in the centre and on edge of the old forest then gradiate down with the smaller trees. Interplant with shrubs to form a slope of foliage that gradiates into the mature forest canopy on the edge of the forest and up to the taller nut trees in the centre. This will minimise wind damage and maximise the growing area. These trees and shrubs will not only provide food for you but also for the other forest inhabitants, in particular the deer. Create an apple store to keep your apples fresh by making a north facing earth covered barrow close to the house. Please note that if you plant hardy species such as sloe, crab apple, and hawthorn they can become established and then you can graft on desired high yielding species later. This method may be cheaper and faster as well as the time staggering of valuable trees appearing will help to prevent loss. The hardy species will also create a microclimate for the more sensitive high yielding species. Please also note that the walnuts in the diagram have been guilded to prevent losses to other trees, as walnuts are allopathic (kill of some other species).
There are many different useful trees and plants you could include in your forest garden a good book to refer to is creating a forest garden by martin Crawford. This book will tell you about the many different species there uses and requirements.
15. Managing the Wet woodland BAP priority habitat.
This habitat needs very careful consideration as it has great potential for nationally rare species of insect and flowers please see the information sheet I have enclosed in the appendix. Sites like this are essential for some species such as the rare butterfly orchid and the moths that pollinate it. Sites like this can maximise there potential through coppicing the trees but leave old trees standing. This allows more light and warmth to the earth making it ideal for insects. Some light grazing through the area will also help diversify flora and prevent colonisation of brambles. Pile up brash to provide excellent habitats for insects, birds and amphibians. It would be good to have an ecological survey of this site to monitor how the species change over the years.
Notes on coppicing
Coppice should always but cut in cants and not in individual stools, the cants should be no less than 0.3 acres and no more than a 1.2 acre block. Your willow, rowan, alder, hazel and oak will all coppice, the hazel and the willow being the fastest yielding. Please refer to the book the woodland way be Ben Taw, this is a really good book on sustainable woodland management.
16. Build dams
By now you will know your woodland quite well and you will be used to the rhythms of your streams, to enhance this habitat for trout you can create feeding pools by damming the appropriate sections. You can either use rocks and boulders to do this or willow faggots placed across the stream out let and staked into place. Providing they have contact with earth they will grow and provide a long lasting stable barrier. You can also use dead wood to block oulets which is valuable to many species of aquatic insect. When doing this it is important to ensure that the waterfalls created over the dam are not too high for the trout to gain access up stream and that they are wide enough for them to swim up. Please see the web page that I have provided in the appendix. You will also be legally required to apply for planning before you make any alterations to the water ways. See the environment agencies website for information on licensing.
Now that you have finished noisy disturbing operations in the lower reaches of the forest you can construct an otter holt if one does not already exist. The piles of rocks that have fallen down the cliff make an ideal habitat. You can improve it by arranging them to make a large dry shelter using wood as supports with rocks on the top, with an entrance and an exit hole. Then cover it with brash for additional privacy. Otters will not come if there is any disturbance to this area so make sure your access routes do not run near the holt.
18. Thin out mature woodland
Select small trees that will never grow to there full potential due to be shaded out by larger trees. Cutting down these trees will help the larger ones more room and allow them to spread out and reach there full potential. The small glades that will be created will be good for grazing dear and woodland flora.
19. Build badger set and fox den
Use large piping and logs to create a multi tunnelled badger set in the quiet part of the forest in the top southern corner. Feed them regularly with peanuts so they get used to you and you should be able to get quite close to them.
For the fox hole dig one chamber with a tunnel at each end and cover over the top with logs and soil. Do this as far away from your chickens as you can get.
20 The marmosets
The maromozets will happily live in the forest and if you are to get any primates I recommend these as they will not require a cage. Simply build them a heated shed kept at 25 degrees and they will be happy. They will roam freely in your forest but their range is so small that they wont go far. They will take advantage of all the food you have provided but you will need to offer them additional feed and minerals to ensure they stay in good health. I have located them next to your house so you can keep an eye on them and enjoy their company.
21 The deer
For your habitat roe deer are best suited, with all the food you will be planting they will thrive in the forest and will actually benefit the ground flora as long as you keep the densities low. However you will need tree guards on the fruit trees whilst they are young to be safe. Please see the website I have listed in the appendix.
These projects may take many years to complete but as you said you hope for this to be a life long project, I advise you to proceed delicately with your building works and try to have a gradual impact rather than immediate, also try to use small and slow solutions as much as possible so you can stop if you see something is of detriment to the wildlife. It would be good to set up a framework of assistance for you with various groups volunteering or completing courses to get the work done. The site like the one your are proposing has great community and wildlife value and could be used to inspire more people to create something similar and educate people how to. I would recommend that you get a species survey done so we can use it as a bench mark for the future and also to help prevent loss of any rare species. Also it would be worth following the stream up the mountain and seeing if trout are present there also. It would be good for you to make contacts with Syrcas circus in Llanfair pg as they have many useful contacts and access to tools. They manage a woodland sustainably there and run work shops on various activities. It would also be a good place to pick up volunteers. I will be at the end of an email if you need me. Good luck.
Handy books and websites and films
Perennial vegetables by Eric Toensmeier
Creating a forest garden by Martin Crawford
A begginners guide to permaculture by Rosemary Morrow
Getting started in permaculture by Ross and Jenny Mars
Gaia’s garden, a guide to home scale permaculture by Toby Hemenway
How to grow perennial vegetables, low maintenance low impact gardening by Martin Crawford.
Enhancing trout habitat http://www.wildtrout.org/sites/default/files/library/uplands_section5.pdf
Wet woodland priority habitat
Wild woodland flowers http://www.solihull.gov.uk/Attachments/Woodland_Flowers_Leaflet.pdf
Seed shop www.seedaholic.co.uk
Heirloom seeds www.realseeds.co.uk
Plant data base www.plantsforthefuture.co.uk
Unusual seeds and plants www.b-and-t-world-seeds.com
Geoff Lawton, Soils
Free permaculture films and info http://www.permaculture-media-download.com/2011/08/permaculture-organic-farming.html