Twenty years ago when the Magog Downs were created the grand plan was to convert an area of farmland into a site that would be a haven for wildlife as well as an area that could be used by the public for quiet recreational activities. To this end a certain amount of landscape design was carried out which incorporated areas of woodland planting, the idea being that this would help create a greater variety of habitats and therefore increase the biodiversity and at the same time make the site more interesting for all users.
There were (and still are), one or two areas of more mature woodland but plans had to be made for replacement trees which would eventually take the place of the mature woodland. At this time Eric Winterflood got involved with the trust and his previous experience as a Forester with the Forestry Commission proved invaluable.
Eric decided that the best method of planting would be the traditional use of young (1 and 2 year old whips), planted at close spacingís which has been proven to get the best results as young trees are less affected by their removal and adapt very quickly to their new surroundings, the close spacing also helps encourage quick straight growth whilst suppressing the growth of weeds which are competitors for available nutrients. However some losses were expected and it is not unusual to lose 10 to 20% of the trees planted, much greater than this and the whole area would be re-planted.
Eric was so successful in his choice of stock and planting that he in fact had a success rate of approximately 97%, whilst very good on the one hand it does mean that there comes a time when the trees need to be thinned in order to give more room for growth and slow down the rate of straight growth which could lead to the trees toppling due to a top heavy crown on a week spindly trunk.
The time for thinning has now arrived and ideally we need to reduce the tree cover by approximately 50% overall, however this needs to be done in stages in order not to have too great an impact on the areas of woodland visually and the wildlife within. It is also better for the trees because when grown close together they learn to depend on each other for stability and if too many trees are taken out the wind may have a tunnel effect and blow through the newly made gaps towards trees that have always relied on others to provide a wind break. By removing the trees gradually those which are left have the necessary time for their root systems to strengthen and adapt to the exposure.
Thinning will be carried out in a sympathetic manner which will not leave the woodlands looking too sparse, will help with a more natural method of tree removal leaving a variety of species, shapes and sizes, help with the creation of glades and provide improved cover for wildlife with the creation of an understory as all the trees are native species and will grow into coppice stools.
Policy Statement on thinning and felling
The Govenors of the Magog Trust have a continuing commitment to the communities of South Cambridgeshire and to the many users resident within the City boundary, to provide a unique area of countryside, for conservation and recreation for our own and future generations.
The management plan for Magog Down has evolved over several years, having to address at times the conflicting interests of the many parties who have come to use and love this recently restored countryside.
The Magog Trust always endeavours, in its decisions, to further the joint aims of enhancing habitats, restoration of chalk grasslands, creating healthy and vibrant woodlands whilst protecting the past, the ancient archaeological sites around Little Trees Hill, for future generations. Taking the past, a past which cannot be recreated, into the future, was an important and decisive action.
From the first woodland plantings in 1991, the public were invited to sponsor the planting and maintenance of trees, specifically in Magog and Memorial Woods. Due to the unexpected success rate of the initial plantings which produced tall, closely spaced trees without either the canopies or understoreys to create rich woodland habitats for birds, insects and small mammals, a 50% thinning programme is now required. This thinning programme is now underway and will continue over the next five years in all the woodlands on Magog Down. The recent work in Magog Wood has resulted in the felling of around 250 additional young trees included in the sponsorship scheme in addition to those in the standard thinning programme. This additional felling was unexpected and unplanned until 2009 when the ancient scheduled monument was verified by a non-intrusive survey. Names of those who took part in this scheme are recorded and we regret any misunderstandings that have arisen concerning the sponsorship scheme.
Some mature trees, mostly Ash, Sycamore and Evergreen Oak, have also been felled. The latter two produce many seedlings and are very invasive, and trimming back ivy cover on retained mature trees has revealed hidden damage and evidence of disease.