Felling works to bring native trees back to Forestry England site

Avon Gorge Tunnel

Avon Gorge Tunnel - Credit: Archant

Felling works throughout September will change the look of the Avon Gorge, making way for native trees, including the rare Bristol whitebeam.

Leigh Woods © Nick Serebi, Flickr

Leigh Woods © Nick Serebi, Flickr - Credit: Archant

Forestry England, working closely with MetroWest, will undertake felling operations above the gorge, in Leigh Woods, throughout the month, with the works set to last 12 weeks.

The work to clearfell small areas of non-native trees such as led oak, Japanese larch and western hemlock that have reached maturity is complex.

The steep area of the woodland perched on the edge of the gorge, combined with the need to close the railway line below, means the most dangerous works will take place on Sundays, one of Leigh Woods’ busiest days.

Following the felling and extraction of timber from the gorge side and through the woodland, the areas will be restocked with native species such as small leaved lime, hazel and round leaved whitebeam.

Stephen Eyres, head of forestry and land management for Forestry England in West England, said: “This felling operation will significantly change the appearance of the Avon Gorge, for a while it will look stark and bare whilst it sits fallow for a year.

“It gives us a fantastic opportunity to replant next winter with native trees.

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“We are very pleased to be able to plant a small amount of the Bristol whitebeam, one of eight native trees of the genus sorbus that are endemic to the Avon Gorge, this species has been carefully propagated from seed collected in the Avon Gorge specifically for us to replant here in Leigh Woods.”

The scheme is part of Forestry England’s management plan to return the woodland to native broadleaf, caring for the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) woodland for generations to come by allowing people to enjoy it and for nature to thrive.

Forestry England is advising visitors that the woodland will remain open throughout the felling works.

To keep the public, staff, and contractors safe there will be safety and operational signs displayed, diversions, trail closures at times.

Forestry England manages and cares for the nation’s 1,500 woods and forests, with more than 230 million visits to sites per year.