Originally, I used a small piece of woodland on a private estate for many months for my personal journey. Until the estate manager told me pheasant shooting was around the corner and I would have to move.
I knew then I would have to find somewhere local and private to enjoy nature, read my book and of course plant trees. I contacted the Duke of Devonshire to ask for help in this matter. Two months down the line I was signing for a lease of a small piece of woodland.
The woodland was a site of an old quarry which was expired and trees planted to restore the land to wildness. What the owners didn’t know at the time is the tree planting in an old quarry is limited on two distinctive aspects: colonisation and development of the ecosystem. This kind of exploitation leads to a process called rock desertification, producing denuded areas that are extremely difficult to rehabilitate.
On the outside the trees are healthy, but the ground which they are rooted is neither deep and many of the roots hang on the old quarry spoils. On the slopes, there is a high risk of erosion due to the removal of vegetation and the lack of available soil on steep slopes. So many trees have fallen down due to this.
In addition, the old method of quarry exploitation on the many (platforms) levels increases drainage problems, and the physical and chemical erosion of the substrate, hindering natural germination and establishment of young saplings and thus delaying recolonisation.
As Custodians of the Woodland, we aim to help the recolonisation of the native species of broadleaf in the woodland by planting more saplings and look at the soil characteristics. This will allow us to form a strategy and evaluation of the success of the revegetation in these degraded areas.
Our plan is simple to plant saplings in holes of about 50 cm depth, filled with organic soil. Adding a cover soil layer all over the woodland to provide an environment which allows recolonisation and establishment of new plant communities which is a very important role in soil evolution. Rapid re-greening of the area is a primary goal, and fast-growing species such as Alder, Hazel, and Silver Birch, could be used in the first stage of revegetation.
What comes next
The ecosystems must be monitored, to determine whether development is proceeding well or if aftercare management is required more. Even minor aftercare could alleviate the major constraints on revegetation and significantly accelerate development. From these results, it seems very important to reduce the inter-specific competition between species by selective thinning of older pine trees and thus accelerate the successional stages.