Once the Woodland Trustees had made the decision to set aside approximately 2,500m2 of the woodland as an area that could be allowed to go "wild", it was necessary to decide how we would do it. It would, of course, be perfectly possible to leave everything to nature. However, our experiment was intended to last for perhaps ten or fifteen years and it would take a lot longer than that for the tall but matchstick-thin oak trees to die, fall down and eventually to admit light to an understorey that had been bathed in gloom for years. Our idea, therefore, was to have a "managed wilding", rather than just allowing the area to develop by benign neglect.
Following the fencing of the area (which was done principally to exclude humans and dogs), we began by felling some of trees in order to admit additional light. The number felled was not great (and there are more still which remain to be felled) but the result after just a few months was frankly amazing. Whereas the ground vegetation beneath the trees had previously been sparse and unimpressive, by June 2019 (the summer following the felling) it was flourishing. A 1 hour (and very un-scientific) survey revealed that the biodiversity of the under-storey and ground vegetation had increased hugely. In addition to the usual woodland grasses, this formerly unproductive area was growing Bluebells, Brambles, Campion (both pink & red), Cow Parsley, Dandelion, Field Buttercup, Garlic Mustard, Goosegrass, Hogweed, Nettles, Sorrel, Stinking Woundwort, Vetch, Violets, Wood Avens and masses of ivy! The additional light had 'woken up' the plants that previously had no chance of growing in the murk beneath the spindly oak trees.
So what will happen next? The ultimate objective is to have an area which is unavailable to dogs and people and dense enough to give privacy, peace & quiet to the timid and shy birds and small animals that could not previously find a home in our woodland. The brambles will be allowed to grow unimpeded and a number of stands of hazel will be planted, to create a differently-dense environment.