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The Rural Stewardship Scheme 2005

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The Rural Stewardship Scheme

Prescriptions for Woodland and Scrub

29. Management of Scrub (including Tall Herb Communities)

Aim: To enhance and extend areas of native scrub vegetation, which will also help the survival of associated flora and fauna.

Some BAP species that may benefit: Juniper, Woolly willow, Chequered skipper, Linnet.

Eligible sites: Grazed land with suppressed scrub or tall herb communities.

Management Requirements:

  • Grazing is not allowed, except with the prior written agreement of Scottish Ministers. Such permission will only be given in circumstances that will encourage regeneration of woodland or understorey and is not likely to apply more than once every 3 years.
  • Rhododendron growth must be controlled.
  • Cutting of understorey vegetation must be avoided.
Scrub

Willow scrub restricted to less accessible burnsides

Juniper scrub

Species to use to identify areas of tall herb communities

box 3.19

Close up showing a mosaic of rushes and flowering plants forming a tall herb community

Tall herb community two seasons aftersheep removed

Globe flower

Photos: Angus MacDonald - SNH

Appropriate species would be water avens (Geum rivale), globe flower (Trollius europaeus), wood crane's-bill (Geranium sylvaticum) -- these are fairly common tall herb species, and indicate where tall herbs and scrub will regenerate if stock is excluded from the area under the Management of Scrub prescription. Great wood-rush (Luzula sylvatica) is commonly found in tall herb communities and is easy to recognise. Determining whether or not the other species mentioned are present will require a more detailed inspection of the area.

30. Management of Native or Semi-Natural Woodland

Aim: To enhance and extend areas of native or semi-natural woodland, which will also help the survival of the associated flora and fauna.

Some BAP species that may benefit: (Upland oakwood) Red squirrel, Black grouse, Pearl bordered fritillary; (Native pine woodland) Scottish crossbill, Capercaillie, Scottish wood ant, Juniper, Twinflower; (Wet woodland) Great crested newt, Dark-bordered beauty moth, Pale bristle moss.

Eligible sites: Existing native or semi-natural woodland (where Forestry Commission assistance is not appropriate to the site).

Management Requirements:

  • No grazing to be allowed, except with the prior written agreement of Scottish Ministers. Such permission will only be given in circumstances that will encourage regeneration of woodland or understorey and is not likely to apply more than once every 3 years.

Woodlands & Grazing

box 3.20

Pearl Bordered Fritillary

Pearl Bordered Fritillary
Inhabits woodland edge and clearings in open, mainly deciduous woodland. It is also found in open unimproved grassland/bracken habitats. Violet leaves provide food for pearl bordered fritillary caterpillars. The Highlands, Argyll and Perthshire are particularly important for this butterfly. A decline in traditional woodland management practices, such as coppicing, has led to the loss of the open areas or clearings that are favoured by this species. This loss of habitat has led to a rapid fall in the population and distribution of this butterfly. However, in a number of Scottish glens with grazed open birch/oak woodlands and some bracken, it is locally common.
Photo: Butterfly Conservation

Grazing within woods generally inhibits natural regeneration; often seedlings appear only to be repeatedly grazed off. The woodland will gradually thin out as old trees die and eventually disappear. Heavy grazing in woods for long periods will also affect plants growing on the woodland floor, bringing about changes in the insect, animal and bird populations.

However, in the early stages of management for natural regeneration, cattle grazing can be used to break up the sward and create sites for seeds to germinate. This should be carried out in the first year of management, preferably just before seed-fall. It may be beneficial to reintroduce stock again a few years later to create more disturbance to allow seeds to germinate better. Livestock may also assist regeneration on sites with light to moderate bracken cover. Fencing off areas adjacent to the existing woodland could encourage woodland expansion outwith the current woodland boundary. Where growth has been held in check by grazing, stock exclusion may initiate rapid and prolific regeneration.

Judging whether a site will regenerate naturally and what management may be required needs close observation and experience. Where there is doubt, it is usually best to seek advice (refer to Part 1, Section 5 of this booklet).

  • Standing dead timber must not be felled and dead timber must be left in the woodland.
  • Individual young trees must be provided with tree shelters where necessary.
  • Written confirmation must be obtained from the Forestry Commission that no appropriate Forestry Commission assistance is available to achieve the same outcome as this RSS management option.
  • Where the planting of small trees will serve to extend or enhance this habitat, native species appropriate to the site must be used and, where possible, local provenance stock.
  • Individually planted young trees must be provided with tree shelters where necessary.

woods

  • If the woodland is to continue to serve the dual purpose of providing shelter and enhancing biodiversity, long-term and skilled management is essential. It may, for example, be necessary to carry out selective coppicing or thinning work in order to allow sunlight to penetrate the woodland canopy and ensure the survival of understorey and shrub layer plants. Please refer to Section 5, headed "Advice?" in Part 1 of this booklet for sources of specialist advice on woodland management.
  • Any thinning or felling of trees will require a Felling Licence from the Forestry Commission.
  • Where an applicant is transferring to the RSS at the end of 10 years participation in an ESA Scheme, it will be assumed that Forestry Commission assistance will not be appropriate to the site as it has been under agri-environment scheme management for 10 years.

31. Management of Ancient Wood Pasture

Aim: To enhance and extend sites with existing ancient wood pasture by maintaining the veteran trees, introducing or encouraging the regeneration of appropriate trees and managing the open pasture beneath and between those trees, to ensure the continuity of habitats which will support a range of invertebrates, birds, plants and other wildlife.

Some BAP species that may benefit: Orange-fruited elm lichen, Bacidia incompta (another lichen); Dark-bordered beauty moth, Hammerschmidtia ferruginea (an aspen hoverfly), Juniper, Black grouse, Red squirrel.

Eligible sites: Sites currently listed in, and candidate sites for, the "Inventory of Ancient Wood Pasture in Scotland" (maintained by SNH) will be eligible under this Scheme.

This option may be adopted for ancient wood pasture sites where there are existing veteran trees and for areas which are contiguous with existing ancient wood pasture and now devoid of veteran trees, but where there is historical evidence, from 1st edition 1860 maps, that such a habitat has existed.

Management Requirements:

i. Where the open pasture element of the wood pasture is grassland, improved or unimproved, on the inbye:

Option 1:

  • Livestock must be excluded for 6 consecutive weeks between 1 April and 15 June (inclusive).
  • At other times, grazing levels must be set to maintain an average sward height of between 5 and 20 centimetres, subject to a maximum stocking density of 0.75 LU/ha.

OR

Option 2

  • Where the aim of this prescription would not be achieved by adopting option 1, a livestock management and grazing regime must be set out in a grazing plan to be agreed with Scottish Ministers. Stocking rates should be set to maintain an average sward height of between 5 and 20 centimetres, subject to a maximum annual stocking density of 0.75 LU/ha. Where such an alternative management regime is proposed, evidence to support its adoption must accompany the application, for example a letter of support from, or a reference to advisory material produced by, a recognised conservation organisation.
Cadzow oaks

Cadzow oaks - probably Scotlands best known lowland ancient wood pasture. A large collection of vetern oak trees, some of which started life when Cadzow was a medieval hunting park of the Scottish KIngs. More recently owned by the Dukes of Hamilton. Work is underway to establish young oaks from local seed. Photo: © Peter Quelch.

AND, for both options,

Conaglen oak

Conaglen oak - oak and ash are surviving in a highland situation at Conaglen, Ardgour. Ancient natural pinewoods are found higher up the same glen. This oakwood has been grazed by deer and livestock for so long that it has acquired the structure and character of oak wood pasture, with some very large vetern trees in it (not the one featured in this picture).
Photo: © Peter Quelch

  • Pesticides, lime, artificial fertiliser, farmyard manure or slurry must not be applied to the site. However, herbicides may be applied to control injurious weeds (Weeds Act 1959) using a weed wiper, spot treatment or hand sprayer.
  • Any topping must not be carried out before 31 July.
  • The site must not be used for supplementary feeding of stock.
  • Where planting of small trees will serve to extend or enhance this habitat, species appropriate to the site and, where available, of local provenance must be used.
  • Newly planted trees or any successful regeneration must be protected, either as individual trees or in groups. The stem density within such groups will not exceed 50 trees per hectare while the spacing between them will not be less than 20 metres.
  • Wooden post-and-rail fencing or metal tree guards should be erected where required to maintain and prolong the life of individual veteran trees.
  • Provision must also be made through a deer control plan, agreed with the Deer Commission for Scotland, for the control of deer grazing.

ii. Where the open pasture element of the wood pasture is acid grassland or heath, on the rough grazings:

  • Livestock must be excluded between 1 November and 28 February.
  • At other times, grazing levels should be set to maintain an average grass sward height of between 5 and 20 centimetres and must not exceed 0.3 LU/ha.
  • The site must not be used for supplementary feeding of stock.
  • Where planting of small trees will serve to extend or enhance this habitat, species appropriate to the site and, where available, of local provenance must be used.
  • Newly planted trees or any successful regeneration must be protected, either as individual trees or in groups. The stem density within such groups will not exceed 50 trees per hectare while the spacing between them will not be less than 20 metres.
  • Wooden post-and-rail fencing or metal tree guards should be erected where required to maintain and prolong the life of individual veteran trees.
  • Provision must also be made through a deer control plan, agreed with the Deer Commission for Scotland, for the control of deer grazing.
  • Pesticides, lime, artificial fertiliser, farmyard manure or slurry must not be applied to the site. However, herbicides may be applied to control injurious weeds (Weeds Act 1959) using a weed wiper, spot treatment or hand sprayer.

What is ancient wood pasture?

box 3.21

Cumloden oak

Cumloden oak - a verern multistem oak in a historic wood pasture setting at Cumloden estate near Newton Stewart. This oak seems to be growing on an ancient field clearance cairn.
Photo:
© Peter Quelch

What is ancient wood pasture? box3.21

Ancient wood pasture consists of scattered trees in a grassland or heathland setting. It is a habitat fashioned by generations of rural people grazing livestock and maintaining trees on the same site. The grazing needed to be just right; light enough to allow trees to grow (and occasionally to regenerate), but sufficient to prevent a woodland forming and shading out the pasture. Where this was achieved over a long period of time, a unique habitat developed, which today harbours many rare and important species.

The term 'ancient wood pasture' includes the parklands and designed landscapes of some big estates, the vestiges of royal and noble hunting forests and a range of smaller sites, which perhaps survived through the vagaries of chance and circumstance. The latter are perhaps some of the most 'natural' areas of landscape left, a direct progression from the post-glacial 'wildwood'.

Why is it important?

The trees are a key feature. They are often very old, sometimes very big and may have been cut back (pollarded) in the past. These veteran trees can be centuries old and host long-established communities of fungi, lichens and specialist insects. They are also home to birds, bats and other wildlife. Having trees like this, surrounded by nectar-filled wild flowers and open semi-natural grassland, creates a special wildlife habitat and a classic landscape.

Remnants of this landscape have survived throughout Scotland, although the extensive rural practices which created and maintained it have died out. The wood pasture that remains provides evidence from past centuries of the traditional stewardship and careful husbandry that formed this great Scottish landscape.

The simplest identifying feature of wood pasture is the presence of veteran trees.

What is a veteran tree?

When you begin to look, you can find veteran trees throughout Scotland; in churchyards, gardens, ancient woodlands, field boundaries and in the remaining areas of parkland and wood-pasture. It is difficult to define precisely what constitutes a veteran tree, but the general characteristics are easily appreciated.

There are many older veteran trees around that have been standing for hundreds of years, a few that can mark a millennium and the odd example such as the Fortingall yew, which easily predates Christianity. Old, however, can be a relative term. Willows or birches start getting old when they are sixty or seventy; a 200-year-old oak will be only reaching its prime.

Technically, a tree becomes 'veteran' when the actual volume of new wood created each year starts to decrease. This is associated with a reduction of the canopy, the death and loss of branches and the advance of decay fungi which hollow out the heartwood and the broken stumps of branches. This period of 'retrenchment' may last for decades or even centuries while the tree decays and maintains a sparse living crown. Trees such as these characteristically feature the "deadwood" habitats that are so important for the range of epiphytic and saproxylic plants, invertebrates and mammals associated with big old trees.