The mosaic of woodlands and individual trees in streets, parks and gardens across Dudley and the other Black Country boroughs is known as the Black Country Urban Forest. Covering 36,000 hectares, work on developing the forest began in 1990, with the aim of using the trees and woodlands as an important means of improving the quality of life and image of the Black Country for everyone who lives and works in the area
In 1995, a partnership between the Black Country authorities, BTCV, Groundwork Black Country, The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country and the National Urban Forestry Unit was awarded National Lottery Millennium programme funding. Across the Black Country, this enabled one million new trees to be planted, creating over 500 new woodlands, and more than 150 existing woodlands to be brought into management.
Dudley Countryside Services is responsible for the planting and management of trees and woodlands across its sites – Green Care is responsible for other Council-owned trees and woodlands.
Tree safety inspections are regularly undertaken. Any trees or branches identified as posing a risk to people or property are managed in a programmed and appropriate manner, and with due regard to any nesting birds, roosting bats, etc. This may involve the removal of some trees and branches of actual or potential wildlife value, but given the accessibility of our sites, protection of public safety and property have to be given due regard. However, where appropriate, any felled timber is left on site as a wildlife resource.
We have entered into Woodland Grant Schemes with the Forestry Commission for Saltwells Wood and Wren’s Nest.
Saltwells Wood covers some 41ha and is dominated by Oak and Beech well over 100 years old, which was selectively felled probably during the Second World War. There are now considerable areas of self-set mixed Oak, Ash and Sycamore; indeed, Saltwells Wood is renowned for its substantial amount of natural regeneration. Areas of pasture, with varying amounts of mixed scrub, form glades and give long woodland margins. Within the woodland lies Doulton’s Claypit, where Birch, Oak, Sallow, Hawthorn and Sycamore up to 30 years old dominate.
The main objective is to maintain Saltwells Wood much as it appears at present, but with more light given to areas of promising younger trees, more varied path edges and few large dying trees over paths. Timber production is not a major factor and neither are changes to the woodland structure, but planned operations will tend to improve the quality of the tree stock, such that there will be useful trees both for educational purposes and as a potential source of timber in the future.
At Wren’s Nest, much of the 39ha of woodland is secondary, developing from trees and shrubs that colonized abandoned limestone workings or were planted by the Earl of Dudley – the oldest are Oak and Beech and are estimated to date from the early 19th Century. More recent regeneration consists primarily of Ash, Sycamore and Hawthorn. Its position on the Severn-Trent watershed affords the woodland high landscape value, especially within such an urban location, though the oldest trees on the ridge are nearing the end of their lives.
Management work consists of removing tree and shrubs from the exemplary rock exposures to prevent damage to them. Additional thinning aims to favour trees for particular wildlife benefit or future landscape value, whilst old trees that pose a threat to public safety are managed accordingly.
Dudley Countryside Services, Green Care and Nature Conservation have also entered into a Woodland Improvement Grant scheme with the Forestry Commission for 31 other woodlands across the Borough, covering some 176 ha. These include several ancient semi-natural woodlands and other semi-mature broadleaved woodlands including a few willow woods on stream courses. All are designated for their wildlife value: 17 being Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation, several Local Nature Reserves and the remainder Sites of Local Importance for Nature Conservation. Management of these sites safeguard their nature conservation through thinning where required (particularly of invasive species), promotion of sustainable public access and tree management for public safety.