Case Studies

Richmont Castle – East Harptree Combe

A private woodland of both historic & ecological significance. The Combe, within the Mendip AONB, boasts the remains of Richmont Castle, a Victorian aquaduct & an SSSI designation. There is a public footpath running through the wood & a long history of public access. The woodland occupies a deep cleft in the side of the Mendip Hills with steep almost vertical slopes around the castle. The trees have grown tall & straight in there search for light making them susceptible to wind blow. The thin soil has compounded this problem with trees highly reliant on each other for support.

 201_0792  In late 2009 Arborista were invited to prepare a Woodland Management plan in order achieve the aspirations of the owner, those of outside bodies such as Natural England & English Heritage & to meet with owners obligations under the Occupiers Liability Act 1981 (Duty of Care) and for the long term conservation of the woodland.

 Natural England had identified Sycamore as a potentially invasive species & advised its phased removal in order to “return” the wood to its natural NVC classification of ash/hazel woodland. Arborista obtained a felling license from the Forestry Commission & have been clearing 80 sycamore stems per year, making way for natural regeneration of native species using the principles of Continuous Cover Forestry.

 14 species of Somerset Ancient Woodland indicator plants are recorded in the botanical record of the site demonstrating that the site is an Ancient Woodland. The oldest trees in the wood appear to be the beech, probably planted no more that 150 years ago. The majority of the ash & sycamore are much younger natural regeneration following ad hoc harvesting & natural succession following wind blow.

Veteran Trees – several of the beech can be described as “Veteran Trees” being of great age & exhibiting a range of indicative features such as decay cavities, truncated branches & aerial dead wood. Veteran trees provide considerable habitat value for invertebrates &
fungi many of which require very specific environmental conditions to survive. Veteran trees are historically & culturally valuable providing direct links with the past. However,such trees also present significant hazards which had to be addressed as part of the risk assessment. (Ancient Tree Forum).


Now in its 3rd year the management project faces an unexpected issue, that of Ash Die Back (Chalara fraxinea). Arborista are currently working with the Forestry Commission & the site owners to establish suitable bio-security measures to reduce the impact of the disease & re-assess management initiatives in the light of this new threat.