Stoke Park "will recover over time"

April 06 2018
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This is an update on the work taking place at Stoke Park under the Countryside Stewardship grant awarded by Natural England. The grant includes £337,000 of capital spend plus £184,000 of revenue funding for the upkeep of the estate over the next 10 years.

This is an update on the work taking place at Stoke Park under the Countryside Stewardship grant awarded by Natural England. The grant includes £337,000 of capital spend plus £184,000 of revenue funding for the upkeep of the estate over the next 10 years.

The Countryside Stewardship work includes clearing scrub and selective tree removal within areas of young woodland to allow restoration of species rich grassland and to open up the historic landscape. We then intend to re-introduce a low number of cattle to manage the land in a more sustainable way. We are also restoring a heritage wall, planting 70 new parkland trees, restoring hedgerows, planting an orchard with 200 trees and planting 2 hectares (around 5 acres) of new woodland within an area historically known as New Wood adjacent to the M32.

Initial work has included the removal of a large amount of scrub at the south end of the estate. Inevitably in the short term the area looks quite barren, and unfortunately, due to the wetness of the area there is some damage.  However this is only temporary and we will reinstate these areas when the land dries out a little.  This will include levelling the muddy areas and re-seeding. With aftercare it will recover over time leaving open grassland and accessible paths through that area. As an example, please see photos from Browne’s Folly, near Bath, where scrub was cleared to re-establish grassland meadow.

The aim is to restore a more balanced mix of ancient and historic woodland, hedgerows, open down, pasture woodland and grazed parkland, and for this reason it has been supported by Natural England. The limestone grassland that can be found at Stoke Park, which is being encroached upon by scrub, is nationally scarce which is why it needs restoring.

We are aware that some people have the impression that we are clear-felling woodland but this is not the case. We are intending to thin out and selectively fell trees in the younger woodland area between Barn Wood and Pale Plantation. Trees to be retained have been marked with a pink stripe, and following feedback from local people more trees have been marked for retention.  This will create better habitat diversity, benefiting wildlife and particularly the nationally scarce species-rich grassland we are lucky to have on this site.

Hedgerows are being restored along historic hedgerow lines, by laying and re-planting and maintaining mature hedgerow trees. There has been confusion over markings of trees that are marked for hedge laying (i.e. those trees that will be cut / laid to form part of the hedge). These will be marked with yellow paint rather than pink.

All rubbish is being removed from the worked areas, but there have been some delays in doing this. We will be working with the contractor to ensure that rubbish is removed quickly from the estate in future.

It is anticipated that grazing will start in some areas in early summer. It is being introduced to help manage the land in a more sustainable way and encourage greater species- rich grassland by controlling scrub. The cattle will be a Hereford Angus cross and they are used to having people and dogs around them. The plan is to have about 40 cattle grazing the estate at any one time: it will take a few years to build up to this herd size. Elm Tree Farm, who will be managing the herd, have significant experience – they are a social enterprise that offer opportunities for adults with learning difficulties and autism to have a role in managing the cattle.

Work due to take place over this spring and early summer includes planting up gaps in hedgerows, providing infrastructure such as new fencing for grazing, and reinstatement of the land where scrub has been removed. The University of the West of England and the Council have joined together to fund a programme of woodland work with volunteer students from the University.  This work will be led by local expert Steve England and provide much needed management work to woodlands and teach students skills they may use in their later careers.

We regularly update our website with information. We have added a video about the work, produced a map of work to take place over the next few months and update our FAQs with new information as queries are received. We will also put on further drop-in sessions and/or walks and talks if there is demand. Please check information on www.bristol.gov.uk/stokeparkimprovements.