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Mortimer Forest: 50-year plan to create wildlife haven

By Lucy Todman | Ludlow | News | Published:

A 50-year plan for Mortimer Forest near Ludlow will see it become a haven for visitors and wildlife after a hard-fought battle by residents to save it from developers.

Triumphant members of Save Mortimer Forest protest group

Last year the forest, which is home to a rare species of deer and a magnet for nature lovers, was threatened with development by a holiday company who wanted to build 68 luxury wood cabins deep in the heart of it.

Now, the Forestry Commission's planned vision is for the 1,029-hectare forest to be become a haven for people, nature and the economy.

Broadleaf tree cover will be increased to over one-fifth of the forest over the next 10 years and to much larger areas over the subsequent decades.

They also plan to improve views including those from Ludlow and, to the delight of campaigners, there is no mention of building accommodation in the forest.

According to a consultation, which runs until February 1, over the coming decades much of the conifer plantation will be replaced with native woodland.

Restored

Areas will be restored to oak-dominated forest cover and the existing areas of meadow and neutral grassland will be maintained and rides and roadsides will be wider to support common and protected butterflies and other rotational scrub loving species.

The consultation paper said: “Veteran, mature and future significant trees will be retained and allowed to breakdown providing deadwood habitat and nutrient cycling. Everything from rare dormice and butterflies to lichens and wet willow will enhance the contribution to ecology, cultural heritage and social value and to the wider landscape.”

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Economically, the forest will remain productive through thinning and clearfell timber, mostly conifers.

Currently, 183ha of the forest is broadleaf (18 per cent), the rest conifers. Over the next 10 years, 49ha of conifers will be felled and replaced by 10ha of conifers and 39ha of broadleaf, increasing broadleaf cover to 22 per cent. Broadleaf will often be increased by natural native regeneration after felling. Replanting may also be used. An aim is to increase broadleaf species to 80 per cent in the forest that was formerly ancient woodland, around half the forest area.

Around a tenth of the forest will be transitory or permanently open.

Councillor Andy Boddington, who represents Ludlow on Shropshire Council said: "I am not a forestry expert but this looks a well-balanced plan that will improve both the look of the forest and its ecology, while encouraging visitors to enjoy the landscape. The plan will improve views, including from Ludlow. However, there is no mention of schools and the forest being an education resource."

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To take part in the consultation go to https://consult.forestryengland.uk/forest-districts/mortimer-forest-plan/

FOREST FACTS:

  • The Mortimer Forest is publicly owned. It is home to roe, fallow and muntjac deer.
  • It is a remnant of the ancient Saxon hunting forests of Mocktree, Deerfold and Bringewood.
  • The Forestry Commission, working with Forest Holidays, had planned to build 68 cabins in the woodland.
  • The Save Mortimer Forest campaign group was formed and a petition urging Herefordshire Council to reject the application was signed by almost 5,000 people.
  • Campaigners called the plans a "hugely destructive" development.
  • The plans would have seen the land handed over in a 125-year lease to Forest Holidays, earning the Forestry Commission an annual rent of £200,000.
  • As well as the cabins, the plans included car parking, play equipment, toilets and a new landscaped viewpoint at High Vinnalls.
  • The commission claimed the project would create 43 full-time equivalent jobs, plus another 47 for the local economy as a result of a predicted tourism boost of £2.4 million per year.
Lucy Todman

By Lucy Todman
@shroptod

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star and Shrewsbury Chronicle based in Shrewsbury.

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