A RYEDALE estate has been recognised for its excellence in the care of woodland.

The Hovingham Estate woodlands, owned by Sir William Worsley and managed by Tilhill, has won the Silver Bede Howell Award for Excellence in Silviculture. They also received the Silver Duke of Cornwall award for Resilient Multi-Purpose Forestry.

Both awards were presented at the RFS Excellence in Forestry Awards Ceremony held at Ushaw House in County Durham last month.

Silviculture is the care and cultivation of woodlands, as opposed to arboriculture which is the care and cultivation of individual trees. There is a wide range of different silvicultural systems which are management prescriptions for particular types and areas of woodland.

The judges said: “We were impressed by the co-ordination achieved between the several estate departments. For example, the woodlands present an attractive landscape of high amenity and biodiversity character. They also host an important pheasant shoot by paying especially close attention to the character of woodland edges. The result is a profitable woodland enterprise containing excellent stands of timber that integrates effectively with sporting and other estate priorities.

“This was an excellent example of consistent silviculture practised over many years, and narrowly missed top spot in the competition.”

Referring to the Duke of Cornwall award the judges said; “The woodlands provide an attractive landscape and benefit amenity and biodiversity, within which special areas are protected from commercial use and managed as continuous cover forest because of their importance for conservation. Elsewhere, the pattern of woodland structure in the hills and valleys produces high-flying birds and supports an important pheasant shoot.

“The estate is a pleasingly complex set of maturing woodlands obviously managed to a high standard in an understandably conservative manner.”

Sir William Worsley said: “I am very pleased that our robust silvicultural practices implemented here at Hovingham since 1897 have been recognised again. We continue to produce the best quality sawlogs from our diverse woodland. I am delighted to accept the Silver Bede Howell Award for Excellence in Silviculture 2023.”

Sir William added: “I have enjoyed spending time in the woods at Hovingham ever since I was a child and I hope that they will continue to be an attractive place for many years to come. As well as producing quality timber, I have maintained the strong emphasis on amenity and biodiversity. The woodland has evolved over many years and we have aimed to create a balanced and resilient environment by planting in mixture and leaving specific areas undisturbed. I am thrilled to accept the Silver Duke of Cornwall award for Resilient Multi-Purpose Forestry.”

The 365ha woodlands are part of an Estate owned by the Worsley family since 1563. The present management policy of mainly plantation forestry dates from 1897 with primary species initially being European larch and more latterly Sitka Spruce and Douglas Fir. Hardwood plantations of oak, sycamore, ash or sweet chestnut have also been planted on suitable sites.

The long-term strategy is to continue a policy of mixed woodland. Planting is carried out in intimate mixture. Although this requires greater management the owners believe it provides the best landscape and silvicultural effect, and fully justifies the increased management cost.

The woods are thinned heavily to produce prime quality sawlogs, and the pattern of felling and restocking creates age and species variety. The best quality material is subsequently used for furniture carcassing, veneers, turnery, and building materials including boats.

New silvicultural ideas are also being tested, for example, by allowing more self-sown birch to remain in the plantation to improve species diversity. The Park Woods, which include ancient semi-natural woodland, are managed as continuous cover forestry with group and single tree planting to improve age diversity.