NF001 DORN GLYME VALLEY WOODLAND – OXFORDSHIRE

On the Blenheim Estate. INVESTMENT SECURED

INVESTMENT SECURED  Carbon not now available

OVERVIEW

The land is located in the Cotswolds, following a valley down to a river basin, which is largely covered by a singular strip of trees. The land currently has a small number of tree clusters located in the basin and travelling uphill along field boundaries.

We see Barton River Valley as an opportunity to expand the area of woodland adjacent to existing ancient semi-natural woodland sites, as outlined in the Cotswold area profile. Where there is no existing woodland, small-scale creation will be designed to intercept water flow and reduce soil erosion on valley slopes adjacent to arable fields and along the river corridor.

This ambitious project has high Natural Capital Gains of public access, water catchment and purification, biodiversity, improved wildlife corridors and stunning landscape character.

Key Aims

240,000 Trees

140 Ha

20,000 CO2 sequestered

Additional Benefits

Community

Visual landscape

Ecosystems & biodiversity

Soil

Water quality

Air quality

EXPERT PROVIDER

CARBON

Approximately  450,000 tonnes of carbon are stored in soil and vegetation on the Estate. This is worth approximately £31 million. Currently, 1,400 tonnes of carbon are sequestered each year. Woodland areas store the most carbon on the Estate. Our proposed 141.5ha will sequester over 20,000 tonnes of carbon over 25 years, which, whilst traded to establish the woodland, will give an ongoing legacy to the estate after 25 years.

The Grown in Britain Canopy Metrics ensure that all of our projects are independently audited, designed and delivered to exemplary standards

THE SITE

Most of the area is located on limestone. Shallow, stony soils mean that the area is classed as Grade 3 agricultural land-use class, with lower quality Grade 4 land alongside the river valleys where the ground is poorly drained and sloping.

The surrounding land is a mix of woodland to the north of the site, following the valley, and Grade 3 agricultural land around the remaining areas.

The estate has undertaken a natural capital assessment with the intention of identifying opportunities to increase natural capital value, along with reaching carbon neutral status by 2025. There are currently 334ha of plantation and 400ha of other woodland distributed over the 4856ha estate, of which 310ha are ancient woodlands. The estate intends to re-wild a large extent of its land, plant woodlands for biodiversity, and adapt woodland management to enhance biodiversity.

Strategic positioning of planting, woodlands and hedges will maximise the benefits to biodiversity, wildlife and conservation, as well as enhancement of the local environment. Fences will be erected to protect any new planting from browsing by deer, livestock or other animals. The mature trees present on the land provide excellent habitats for a variety of bats and raptors. The landscape proposals will help to enhance the vision splay along the valley and not obstruct from views towards the river, alongside providing screening of the A4260. The design will look to extend current planting to the north of the site, following the valley sides.

TREES

The planting area covers approximately 140ha, with around 265,000 trees being planted.

Mixed woodland will consist of native species such as Oak, Beech, Alder, Birch, Hornbeam, Lime, Scots Pine, Sweet Chestnut and Wild Service Tree, which will be planted to consider vision splays from footpaths and landscape views. This will be intermixed with native shrub planting, including Alder Buckthorn, Hawthorn, Hazel, Dogwood and Spindle.

The planting will be designed to enhance the local environment, along with linking established woodland and tree planting to the North of the site. All of these species have been sympathetically chosen to create a woodland in-keeping with the local landscape character. We will include Beech in the mixed woodland which aligns to the Landscape Character Assessment for the Cotswold’s region.

BIODIVERSITY

Biodiversity is a hugely important factor in the design of the woodland creation project.

The understory of all tree planting will consist of nectar meadow, meadow overseeding or wildflower seed mixes. There will be wildlife rides covering 10%  of the overall planting area, along with additional open spaces throughout the 21ha of woodland with open public access.

Vertebrate species tend to be more affected by habitat structure, so we have provided low-level shrub planting.

WATER QUALITY AND QUANTITY

Current surface water quality is ’bad’ in the River Dorn, failing for macrophytes and phytobenthos combined, fish, dissolved oxygen and phosphate. The Water Framework Directive aims for ‘good status’ of all surface water. Reasons for not achieving this status include high phosphate levels from fertiliser runoff and sewage discharge. Tree planting on currently fertilised land will reduce runoff, along with providing a buffering capacity of young woodland.

The river Dorn flows into the Glyme which flows into Blenheim lakes and the Evenlode on the south edge of Blenheim Estate. Research undertaken by the Environmental Change Institute and University of Oxford advises that enabling groundwater recharge will therefore continue to be an important service for the Estate to provide. Planting a majority of broadleaves allows for groundwater recharge in the winter.

PEOPLE AND ACCESS

There is a proposed 15,500m circular path through the new woodlands. This circular path is outlined on the map at the top of the page. The site currently has public access along 6 different routes, however the proposed walk is designed to offer a woodland circular path along with joining current access routes allowing a couple of different route options. The path notably takes you through the Park at Blenheim where users can see the benefits of the scheme in terms of water quality in the Blenheim Lake – a heritage asset.

The proposal includes the integration of a Forest School and educational area to provide access to the woodlands for this use, encouraging outdoor learning and empathy with nature.

This project will result in valuable job creation which won’t simply serve the immediate need but also respond to a  requirement to upskill in the forestry industry to respond to the climate emergency.

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