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The National Trust, Naturally!

We are delighted to have been contacted by Mike Dando of the National Trust and asked to release news of their new conservation programme. Mike is a leading member of their team dedicated to looking after the vast sacred landscape surrounding Stonehenge.

Many people are unaware of the work that the National Trust do to preserve the landscape and our free and open access to it. They are also acting to maintain and improve the environment for our native species of wild plants and animal, and this may soon lead to the removal of some features to make way for appropriate native trees and plants. We fully support their efforts to enhance and preserve our wildlife, improving the environment for everyone.

Their letter:

Fargo Plantation Woodland Improvement Works Autumn 2012 

The National Trust are undertaking woodland management work within the Fargo Plantation near Stonehenge in the autumn of 2012 in order to improve the setting of some of the archaeological features within and near the plantation, the nature conservation value of the plantation, and to make it more accessible to visitors.  The plantation was originally planted in the mid-nineteenth century, later being mostly felled in the early twentieth century, to be replanted  around the 1920s, including many conifer trees. 

By making improvements to the structure of the woodland to remove close cover from known archaeological features, the aim is to protect them from potential damage from roots or ‘tree-throw’, and to improve inter-visibility between monuments and from the grassland nearby. This will entail ‘halo’ cutting trees around Bronze Age barrows and allowing some barrows to become more visible from outside the woodland. 

The planned removal of all of the planted non-native conifer trees will enable the native elements of the woodland to thrive.

This will enhance the wildlife habitat by making it possible to undertake restoration of the hazel coppice currently suffering from shading by the coniferous over-storey. The conifers do not grow well on the shallow chalky soil anyway, which they are not suited to, and some have already died due to this. The intended rotational coppicing of the Hazel once the conifers are gone is a slightly longer term aspiration and one which will in due course bring benefits to wild flower & insect populations and bringing potential for local community involvement.    

We believe that this conifer removal work will also improve the aesthetic qualities from afar. We do intend though to retain most of the broad-leaved native ‘standards’ over these Hazel areas. 

We have a few rather beautiful older Beech trees, which we will give more space to, allowing them to mature further without hindrance from other species that could suppress them. 

We are also undertaking some thinning work within the areas of the plantation that have predominantly deciduous trees, and this will improve the age class structure, allowing a better mix of younger and older trees, and giving the necessary space for those remaining to flourish.  By opening up the woodland, increased sunlight will, we hope, attract more warmth loving insects such as Silver washed fritillary, Gatekeeper and Speckled wood butterflies. 

The plantation will benefit from more paths, making it more accessible for visitors and creating a more diverse habitat through increased ‘edge habitat’ and flight corridors. 

Due to the health and safety constraints of tree work, the plantation will be closed whilst works are ongoing. 

Overall we believe that this work will improve the Stonehenge Landscape for its value as both a wildlife habitat and as an important spiritual and archaeological place.”