Thorny shrubs provide their own protection against grazing animals. For example, hawthorn and gorse
can grow under quite heavy grazing pressures, whilst blackthorn tends to regenerate in clumps. Also, while providing
protection to themselves these plants may have also created a protective nursery for other trees such as oak, ash and elm.
Trees are known to regenerate in wood pastures by vegetative means. For example, a number of trees can regenerate
from fallen trunks (resulting in what is now termed as a phoenix tree) or to produce re-growth from branches that touch the
ground; aspen suckers, hazel and willow produces multi-stem growth, and several species can produce new shoots from basal
swellings or from a trunk snapped off by the wind. All these processes still exist in today’s wood pastures.
In other parts of the UK pollarding and coppicing were historically used as land management practices however
there is no evidence that it was commonly done in Dumfries and Galloway.
Where have all the Wood Pastures gone?
It is thought that in the past most of Dumfries and Galloway
resembled a large wood pasture. So why do we have so few left in the region? It is thought that the creation of
agricultural land with stone dykes and hedges in the late 19th and 20th centuries contributed to the reduction of wood pasture.
With the construction or more and more dykes and hedges the remaining wood pastures continued to be lost to the agricultural
intensification. Furthermore, in the mid 20th century the afforestation of conifer plantations also contributed to the
loss of wood pasture.
What’s happening with the Dumfries and Galloway
Wood Pasture Project?
Currently four sites
are being managed as wood pasture. Three of these sites have had trees planted in natural-style tree enclosures and
wooden tree enclosures (see photos). The fourth site is an organic farm and has a problem with bracken. The bracken
is preventing anything else from establishing. Because this farm is farmed organically no chemicals are allowed to be
used to control the bracken, therefore a bracken bruiser was purchased.
Six other wood pastures have been
identified in Dumfries and Galloway and conservation works will begin this autumn. Most of these sites will include
planting trees in tree enclosures.