Why you should visit the fairytale Carpenters Wood near Chorleywood

This month is the time to see bluebells throughout the woods

This month is the time to see bluebells throughout the woods - Credit: cms

A beautiful beech woodland near Chorleywood is a glorious sight at any time of year thanks to traditional management

Carpenters Wood near Chorleywood is an ancient beech woodland. We know that woodlands given the title ‘ancient’ have been wooded for at least 400 years, but it can generally be taken to mean that trees have been present since woodland re-established itself across Britain following the retreat of ice at the end of the last ice-age.

Situated on the Herts-Berks border, and within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Carpenters Wood is of county importance for its wildlife. The site is owned by Three Rivers District Council who, working with Countryside Management Service and local volunteer group the Friends of Carpenters Wood, seek to manage the woodland in a way that combines the needs of people with the aim to protect and enhance habitats. Carpenters Wood forms just a small part of the council’s 240 hectare woodland estate which, since 2007, has been accredited by the UK Woodland Assurance Standard, an independent certification standard for verifying sustainable woodland management.

The district council is in the process of adopting a ‘Greenspace Action Plan’ for the woodland – a five-year project that envisions Carpenters Wood as ‘a diverse and sustainable woodland, resilient against the pressures of climate, pests and diseases. A haven for wildlife, well visited and cared for by the local community, and where small volumes of high quality timber are a by-product of effective, sustainable habitat management.’

The lofty beech trees here, even when spaced widely apart, create a very dense canopy during summer – it can feel like being inside a vast cathedral. In the pure beech areas, notice the carpet of fallen beech leaves on the ground. The shade-loving holly thrives, but little else can find enough light to grow. Walk for a while until you find a gap in the canopy, a pool of light, and in it you will find a mass of young trees pushing up together in competition for light and space. This is the manner in which woodland perpetuates itself naturally, as older trees fall, young ones are ready to take their place.

Humans have a long history of managing and living off woodlands. If the woods were your livelihood, it would be in your interests to utilise them in a manner that is sustainable both for yourself and for your children. To do this, our ancestors embraced and manipulated the natural processes occurring. Instead of waiting for a tree to fall, they would cut a tree down to make full use of every bit of timber. In doing so, they created that pool of light into which a new generation of trees could flourish.

Even in a relatively small woodland, enough timber could be harvested in this manner to meet a community’s needs every year, and their grandchildren could still do the same.

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Over time this activity provides better habitats for wildlife, richer ground flora, and even improves the quality of timber produced. This is the principle of sustainable woodland management. The plans for Carpenters Wood embrace this ethos, using very subtle and gradual canopy management in order to promote natural regeneration and preserve the viability of the woodland in the long-term.

Carpenters Wood is a great place to explore. Now is arguably the best season to visit, when the woodland floor is carpeted with English bluebells, although autumn is a close second when the woods turn golden as the beech trees begin shedding their leaves ahead of winter.

To download a guide to Carpenters Wood, go to threerivers.gov.uk/egcl-page/woodlands. There is also information at parksherts.co.uk/parks/view/carpenters-wood

For more on the work of Friends of Carpenters Woods, visit carpenterswood.org.uk

Author Matt Watts is a CMS land management projects officer.

CMS works with communities in Hertfordshire to help them care for and enjoy the environment. Visit hertfordshire.gov.uk/cms or call 01992 588433.