2018 Draft Proposals

Broomfield Common

This document is a draft awaiting comments from Sedgemoor District Council and Somerset County Council.

It is for information only at this stage. 

 

Introduction

The Common was first registered in 1965 and lies within the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  It also received County Wildlife Site status in 1999. At the time it was described as Ancient Semi-Natural woodland.

The Common lies to the east of the main village community and is intersected by a number of public rights of way, most notably two restricted byways and a public footpath.  In addition there are two private access trackways crossing the Common.

The Common is currently under the joint custodianship of the Parish, District and County Councils.

Amenity

Broomfield Common provides an area of woodland with open glades that create an area of quiet tranquillity within the AONB, to be enjoyed by both Parishioners and the general public alike.  The   bridleways and footpaths provide access as do the annually topped (mown) rides.

Description

The Common comprises areas of relatively level or gently sloping woodland with steeper sloping areas to the north and east. There are two streams running through the wood which provide a more boggy habitat in places.

The most mature trees are mainly Oak, and it is possible that the majority of the mature trees were felled during the war. There now exists a mixture of semi-mature trees predominantly Ash together with stands of Spanish Chestnut,  Silver Birch, Oak,  Beech and increasingly, Sycamore.

The understorey shows the remains of the original Hazel coppice, together with hawthorn, and increasingly Holly and Laurel.

The woodland appears to have been managed in the past as coppice with standards, which would account for the commoners’ right to take 50 stakes annually of no more than 3inch diameter.  It would appear that no management his occurred for many years, which is confirmed in previous Parish Council minutes, other than annual topping of the rides through the wood.

The woodland has not been thinned for many years with the result that they have become tall and spindly. This has resulted in some wind blow. The Ash and Sycamore however, have  produced quite a dense canopy which not only has a detrimental effect on the hazel coppice understorey, but also on the ground flora which although generally shade loving struggles to survive under dense canopy.

Much of the hazel coppice which extends in patches over most of the area is now old and unmanaged with many of the stools struggling to survive.

There are areas of more open glades or woodland lawns which in the past would have provided sheltered open habitat for the indigenous woodland fauna. These areas are now becoming invaded by more aggressive species such as hawthorn, blackthorn, bramble and bracken, which are starting to suppress the more fragile species such as Foxglove, Primrose, Pink Campion  and Purple Orchid.  The historic control of invasive species has been much reduced in recent years much to the detriment of the natural habitat.

There is however a good mix of ancient woodland plants, predominantly Bluebell, Dogs Mercury, Wild Garlic (Ranson), Wood Anemone, Celandine, Primrose and Honeysuckle. In addition  there are Early Purple Orchid , Dead Nettle , Wood Sorrel ,  Wood Violet , Moschalet , Cranesbill, Pink Campion, Herb Bennet , Woodsage and Lords and Ladies (Arum Maculatum).

In addition the woodland is home to a profusion of Ferns , Mosses , Lichens and Fungi . The presence of fallen trees and branches provides decomposing habitat.

Invasive Species

The woodland is now being colonised by invasive species of trees and shrubs, most notably Holly, Laurel and Sycamore, which again create dense canopy reducing light to the woodland floor and in some areas killing the tender and fragile ground plants beneath them.

The more open areas of woodland glades are being increasingly taken over by Bracken, Hawthorn, Blackthorn and Bramble.

Rights of Way

The woodland has in recent years suffered from the restricted byways being used by 4×4 drivers and trail bike riders with the result that these rights of way have become heavily eroded in places making even walking difficult in wet conditions.

Proposals

The area is designated Ancient semi-natural woodland and has received very little management other than the topping of rides in recent years. The result is that invasive species and the dense over-canopy are having a detrimental effect on the character of what is an important area both within the parish and the AONB generally.

The opportunity to carry out positive management within the area should not only help the woodland recover from its present deterioration but increase the amenity to our community. It is hoped that grants available through the AONB should allow an approved management plan to be formalised and instigated with the following aims:-

1. To control invasive species.

2. Re-establish the ancient coppice.

3. Silviculturally thin the Ash standards in coupes (compartments) to reduce canopy and allow light to the
woodland floor.

4. Remove invasive scrub from around the glades to provide improved habitat.

5. Establish a means to reduce illegal access to the common by 4×4 vehicles and trail bikes.

Such a project is a long term exercise which could take many years to fully achieve its goal. However by engaging the local community it could create an environment of which we could all be proud to have helped aid its recovery.

 

Paul Trolley

February 2018

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