As part of our work to improve woodland around Aldershot for the Wellesley Project, we have been clearing windblown trees that were blown over in the storms last winter.
Much of Claycart Wood is a plantation of Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) which has been grown closely together to make straight timber. However, when grown like this, trees become particularly susceptible to storm damage. This is because the competition between trees causes individual tree’s roots to be small and restricted, making it easier for them to be pushed over by strong winds. This is why trees that grow in woodland are more likely to be blown over in storms and why trees that are grown in the open are rarely windblown, despite being more exposed to the wind.
The close planting of the Western Hemlock in Claycart Woods also means that when one tree is blown over, others tend to be knocked over in a domino effect. This makes the work clearing them much more interesting as you have to make sure you cut each tree down in the correct order to get the job done safely and efficiently.
The clearance in Claycart Wood has created a glade in the dense trees which will hopefully be beneficial to plants and organisms that require sunlight to reach the woodland floor. Long term, this will be a management aim for the wood, to remove the Hemlock and encourage native broadleaf trees as well as keeping some open glades. In the mean time, the unsafe windblown trees have been removed and maybe the wind will make some more glades in the plantation this winter?