The Pleasant Forest Project is a Forestry England and Forestry Commission project aimed at creating a thriving new woodland in Kent with environmental and social resilience at its heart.
As with so much of the British landscape, the small field pattern with hedgerows and woodlands has receded in the last 150 years. Large-scale modern transport and utilities infrastructure has had a significant impact on the character of this landscape as has intensive agricultural production.
Woodland has been lost and field boundaries removed with the consequence that habitat has been lost, fragmented, and become disconnected.
In January 2020, Forestry England bought Pleasant Farm near Lenham in Kent. Pleasant Forest is set to create a new woodland for people, nature and the economy on 120 hectares of the former arable farmland, with planting set to commence in the winter of 2021.
Pleasant Forest has been designed following a public consultation and with environmental and social resilience at its heart.
Spread across five plots, the vision is to increase and enhance many of the benefits the landscape currently provides and bring to life its future potential, including locking up carbon emissions, growing sustainable timber, creating space for recreation and providing habitats for wildlife.
Each of the plots will have a focus that builds upon its key features: Access for All, Woodland for the Community, Peacefulness and Nature, Sustainable Timber Production, Research woodlands.
The project will restore and connect habitats to guide nature’s recovery and maximise the biodiversity value of the site. Forestry England will create a diverse mixture of habitats, including open space, high forest, coppice and scrub. Ecological connectivity will be promoted, such as through enhancing existing hedgerow features, creating a stepping-stone network of ten new ponds, and a mosaic of diverse shrub and nectar-rich grassland corridors. Wildflower areas will also be established using green hay from local greensand sites.
The delivery team will also invest in low-key public access and recreation at the site, making it a woodland that people can enjoy on their doorsteps. Paths and rides will create new access around the woodland.
Forest resilience has been built into the design of the forest to ensure that is capable of adapting to future environmental conditions. Resilience will be delivered through high structural and tree species diversity, including 22 conifer, 19 broadleaf and 14 shrub species selected through detailed site surveys and climate analysis. A portfolio approach to planting will include local provenance seed alongside southerly provenances chosen through climate matching analysis, and natural regeneration adjacent to existing ancient woodland will be encouraged.
Design plans have now been finalised and an order placed for 180,000 trees and 35,000 shrubs in readiness for planting to begin in November 2021.
Environmental and societal benefits
This will be a woodland that is fit for the future and which has the needs of those who live and work in the area at its heart. The open character of the site will change slowly over a long period of time, but Forestry England has incorporated open space into the design so that views and habitats are maintained. Woodland edges will be managed for a graduated transition between woodland and open meadow and paths, rides and clearings will be managed to create sinuous margins with ecologically rich, native shrub species. These will form a network of habitat corridors that encourage wildlife to flourish.
The forest design follows the principles of ‘more, bigger, better and joined’ to create and enhance habitats for biodiversity. The effects on biodiversity will be continuously monitored, using state-of-the-art techniques like eDNA, and establishing partnerships with local volunteers who will work alongside ecologists to survey species of interest. The project will also draw on the expertise of partner organisations and involve local schools to share knowledge and ensure cross-generational collaboration with the ambition of creating a socially resilient woodland.
Pleasant Forest will have high natural capital value, delivering a wide range of benefits to society. Establishment of tree cover will sequester carbon and contribute to net zero aspirations. Sustainable timber production will supply the green economy and well-maintained public access will benefit physical and mental wellbeing. Habitat creation and ecological connectivity across the site will benefit biodiversity and support climate adaptation for a wide range of species.
- Forestry England
- Pieminister (sponsor)
- Local volunteer groups
The Inter-Agency Climate Change Group
This project is one of a series of projects which showcase some of the best examples of Nature-based Solutions from across the four countries of the UK. The information has been compiled by the UK Inter-Agency Climate Change Group (IACCG), and is being hosted on the JNCC website on behalf of the group.