Woodland Holly clearance work begins

Woodland Management – December 2023 to February 2024

As the winter season sets in, our woodland management work is getting underway.  The upcoming months, from December 2023 to February 2024, will see the continuation of the holly clearance work we’ve been carrying out in recent years.  This work is a vital component of the Commons' commitment to a Higher-Level Countryside Stewardship agreement with the Forestry Commission and Natural England.

The Purpose of the Project

The focus of this work is to address the overabundance of holly in much of the Commons woodland areas.  Although holly is a native species, its dominance has adversely impacted the development of a well-structured woodland. The scarcity of light caused by an excessive holly population has hindered the growth of essential layers within the woodland ecosystem.  A healthy woodland structure should include a field layer, a shrub layer, an understorey, and a well-developed canopy. 

Recognising the role of Holly as a nesting habitat for birds and as a vital source of nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects, approximately 10% of the existing holly will be retained across the entire area where the management is being carried out.


Please be aware that for this work to be carried out successfully, heavy machinery will be used on site and controlled fires will be maintained by the team of foresters who are working there.  WPCC has permission from the Environment Agency to use fires on site.  The London Fire Brigade have also been informed. 


Disposal of the cut Holly

In the pursuit of environmentally conscious woodland management, WPCC has carefully considered various disposal methods for the excess holly.  While alternatives were explored, the decision to burn the materials has been made taking into account several crucial factors.

  • Minimizing Environmental Impact:
    One of the primary considerations was the potential damage to the Commons' paths if large vehicles were used to remove the holly. The existing network of paths, intertwined with overhanging branches, makes it impractical and potentially harmful to employ such vehicles. The preservation of the natural landscape and the safety of the site's users were prioritized in this decision-making process.
  • Safety Concerns:
    Using large vehicles on multiple occasions to transport the holly would not only jeopardize the integrity of the Commons paths but also pose a significant risk to the safety of those enjoying the site. By opting for a controlled burning approach, the WPC ensures a safer and more efficient method of holly disposal without compromising the well-being of the community.
  • Practicality and Efficiency:
    An analysis of alternative methods, such as chipping the branches, revealed potential drawbacks. Chipping would require extensive time and diesel consumption, presenting logistical challenges and increasing the carbon footprint of the operation. Additionally, the Commons lacks the necessary space to accommodate the vast amount of chipped materials, potentially hindering regeneration and damaging soil health if left on the ground.  Allowing the holly to decompose naturally on the ground could also impede regeneration and harm soil health.

For those seeking more information or with specific inquiries regarding the woodland management initiatives on the Commons, please contact Peter at peter@wpcc.org.uk.