We call for more broadleaves, and more discussion, on Dartmoor’s forest estate

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We have called for greater replacement of conifer trees with native broadleaves in the Dartmoor forests, clearance of trees from ancient monuments, and an open debate about the future of the forest estate.

We were responding to the Forestry Commission’s consultation on its Dartmoor Forest Plan, 2016-2026.

We deeply regret that we were not informed about this consultation, which originally ran until 1 April.  We only learnt about it by chance and that it had been extended to 25 July.  In view of our interest in Dartmoor’s commons and open spaces, we are surprised that the Forestry Commission did not consult us.

However, we have now put in our response.  We consider that the Forestry Commission plantations (Bellever, Fernworthy, Soussons and Brimpts) are a severe blot on the landscape of the Dartmoor National Park, with their straight dark edges which jar with the sweeping lines of the moor.  The rides through them continue to be monotonous for walkers and riders.

Fernworthy forest seen from the west near the Cherry Brook

Fernworthy forest seen from the west near the Cherry Brook

We appreciate that the Forestry Commission intends to increase the proportion of broadleaves, but only by 1 % I in 10 years and 3% in 30, which is not enough.  We should like to see particular attention paid to the hard edges of the forests and the rides.

The harsh, south-west edge of Soussons Forest

The harsh, south-west edge of Soussons Forest

Moreover the Forestry Commission should reconvene the successful working party on ancient monuments to ensure that the historic landscape beneath the trees is properly recognised and protected.

We believe there should be a full and open discussion about the future of the forest estate.  This should include consideration of the percentages of conifers to be replaced and whether the land should be managed as open glades with regeneration of heather, or whether it should be planted with broadleaved trees—or some other option in keeping with national park purposes.

Soussons forest from Challacombe Down

Soussons forest from Challacombe Down

We should be pleased to be involved, and hope that the Forestry Commission will open up the debate and invite everyone with an interest to take part.  The forests occupy a significant area of the national park and we all have a stake in them.

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