Songhust and Bullhams Wood totals 122.18ha and is formed of mixed lowland broadleaf and mid-rotation conifer woodland. The woodland before the 1960s was sustainably managed by the Pallinghurst Estate and post 1960 by Tilhill Forestry. There was extensive planting of conifers, mainly Norway spruce, from 1961 up to 1984, replacing up to a third of the original oak woodland. Since 1984, native broadleaves have been the species of choice, reflecting the changing objectives from commercial timber production to conservation. This woodland management ethos has been maintained by the current owners since they purchased the woodlands in 1993.
The woodland has throughout current ownership been sustainably managed to produce a range of products including biomass, firewood, softwood, and hardwood timber to supply local markets. The aim is to maintain and develop the biodiversity of the whole woodland to create a sustainable, balanced, and dynamic forest ecosystem in line with the UK Woodland Assurance Standard (UKWAS).
The woodland has been managed through multiple Forestry Commission approved management plans since Tilhill have managed the wood. An updated 2020/21 plan is currently being written to ensure that sustainable forestry management within the woodland is up-to-date. All felling within the woodland has been approved through a felling license application signed off by the Forestry Commission to ensure legality and sustainability. Forestry works have been backed by the English Woodland Grant Schemes in the past and are to be put into the current Countryside Stewardship Scheme in 2021.
With the ongoing gradual conversion to broadleaves, oak stands have been managed through intermediate thinning and harvested using a coup felling system (small felling blocks of no more than 0.25ha). This enables continuous cover forestry in the historic broadleaf compartments, enabling landscape and habitat values to be maintained.
Conifer stands have been clear-felled and restocked with mixed broadleaves (primarily oak) to bring the native woodland cover back and carry out habitat restoration in the Plantation on Ancient-Woodland Sites (PAWS). Clear-felling is being undertaken in phases to limit ecological and landscape impact and the remaining conifer is proposed to be felled over the next ten years and restocked with native broadleaves.
Hazel coppice regimes were introduced in 1999 with perimeter deer fencing installed to discourage deer browsing of newly coppiced shoots. This management prescription enabled considerable benefit to the butterfly populations in the woods. Further hazel coppice is proposed to increase wildlife habitat in the updated Forestry Commission woodland management plan currently being written. Two-zone ride management has also been annually maintained to allow for multiple habitat types along the internal ride system for invertebrates.
Inaccessible areas have been designated as long-term retention or nature reserves; which are managed primarily for biodiversity, with work being undertaken as opportunities arise, and the long-term objective of maintaining or converting to native species.
Deadwood provides an important habitat and its provision is important for maintaining biodiversity within the forest. On-going management has allowed for the retention of standing and fallen deadwood where it does not pose a hazard. Seed trees have been identified to retain to promote future natural regeneration.
Veteran trees throughout the woodland have been identified and halo thinned to allow for their canopies to remain healthy without competition. These veteran trees provide huge habitat potential and create impressive landmarks throughout the woodland.
Bi-annual tree safety surveys take place to ensure the public rights of way and public highways are safe from and potentially dangerous trees. Remedial works ensure the safety of walkers in the woodland and passing traffic.