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Seeing the wood for the trees

11 May 2024

Woodland Condition Self-assessment (WCS)

As part of our ongoing commitment to improve Grove Farm Nature Reserve for nature and the community, we’ve recently embarked on a significant project - the development of a comprehensive management plan for the nature reserve. The management plan is designed to guide our efforts in maintaining and enhancing the biodiversity of the reserve, ensuring it continues to be a place of enjoyment and discovery for our community. This work is funded by The Rewild London Fund, which is supported by the Mayor of London and run in partnership with the London Wildlife Trust.

A key component of this plan is understanding the current condition of our woodland and identifying areas for improvement, which we began with our first woodland condition assessment on Saturday, 11th May, with Livio, Cathy, Olena, Sue, Fred, Claudia, Nick, Mike and Anna being supported Alastair Mckinlay from TCV to learn about the process.

We used a new tool created by the London Urban Forest Partnership as part of an initiative spearheaded by the London Wildlife Trust which allows community groups to self-assess the condition of their woodland without the need for specialist support.

The assessment process was an enlightening experience. We learned to distinguish between the canopy layer (trees above 2m), the shrub layer (0.5 to 1m), and the ground layer (less than 0.5m). We examined each layer across different sections of the woodland, observing the variety of trees, shrubs, and plants growing in each, and assessing the age diversity of our trees and shrubs. It helped us to get a holistic understanding of our woodland. It may seem obvious, but the approach brought the phrase “seeing the wood for the trees” to life in a way we hadn’t experienced before.

Our assessment revealed that we think Grove Farm’s woodland is in pretty good condition overall. However, we did identify some areas for improvement. Our woodland is predominantly dominated by ash, oak, and elm trees. While these trees are a vital part of our ecosystem, a lack of variety can pose challenges. For instance, ash and elm trees are susceptible to diseases like ash dieback and Dutch elm disease which can lead to a rapid decline in the health of these trees.

Additionally, we noticed an overabundance of certain species like bramble and ivy. While these plants play a role in our ecosystem, their dominance can suppress the growth of other plants. This is something we will need to manage carefully to ensure a balanced and diverse woodland floor.

These findings will be invaluable in shaping our management plan. We will work closely with our expert ecologist and our dedicated Park Ranger to verify our understanding and develop strategies to address these issues. If you’d like to find out more about our development of the management plan and play a role in shaping it, drop us a line at

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