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  • Harriet Bell

Notes from the discussion on trees

Defra have outlined that ELMs will finance farmers primarily through the delivery of 6 public goods. These are:


  • Clean air

  • Clean and plentiful water

  • Protection from and mitigation of environmental hazards

  • Mitigation of and adaptation to climate change

  • Thriving plants and wildlife

  • Beauty, heritage and engagement

As part of the Dartmoor ELMs Test and Trial our volunteer farmer Advisory Team are discussion each theme and what they think it should entail as part of a Land Management Plan. The Land Management Plan should have the with potential application to cover home farms, commons and possibly home farms and commons together. The Team met virtually on the 25th of June to sort of discuss the theme of Clean Air but really to talk about trees, we may revisit Clean Air and get back to you.


If you farm or own land on Dartmoor and have thoughts about what should be included within this theme it's not too late to share them with us by taking part in our questionnaire and telling us what you think the future of trees on Dartmoor should entail.


General Discussion

  • Woodland on the farm is an appealing resource to some, but not all, but all the schemes of the last 25 years woodland hasn’t fitted, hasn’t had payments support for what’s on the farm. Because of the small scale of many wooded areas in this part of the world.

  • The challenge in the past is that thresholds have been too high for small farm woodland, we need to recognise the value of that woodland.

  • It would be good to see woodland, often managed by the landlord, to be recognised as being part of the farms but landlords will know doubt want compensation for that.

  • Support for active management of woodlands.

  • For native woodlands, can we have support for versatile use of them particularly as a space to welcome and accommodate people – less sensitive woodlands are ideal for this, ancient woodlands with rich biodiversity may be less suitable for other uses.

  • How practical is it to develop management plans for smaller woodlands?

  • Is it worth doing some evaluation of how many small woodlands there are across Dartmoor which miss out on any support currently?

  • Would not want to see a landscape scale, Tier 3 level, ambition of tree planting on Dartmoor – Dartmoor would not be a target for large scale numbers on the high moor – it’s about the right tree in the right place.

  • We need to see support for very small plantings to see any trees on Dartmoor, they need a lot of shelter and protection. Funding for very small areas of trees would be the best approach.

  • We did not mention the issues with planting on common land and SSSI, including the need for long term fencing and exclusion of livestock.

  • We need to be careful about balancing the different objectives so that they don’t work against each other.

  • As farmers hedge planting, field boundaries and small orchards are all things that have happened over generations. We need a clear economic case about why farmers can afford and should make the time for tree planting and maintenance, it’s very labour intensive and a long term project. We need an economic model that makes it worth the farmers sacrifice to put the time and effort required into this, particularly for small scale woodland. We’ve all got areas we’d like to see more planting on but the economics haven’t justified going down this route. Our forefathers would have done all of these things because they were economically viable then.

  • This could be an opportunity for more social engagement but the costs of taking land out of production still need to be accounted for and all the other elements like health and safety, supervision etc.

  • What’s the impact of planting trees on agricultural land in terms of land value? Will be a significant reduction in land value?

  • We don’t feel woodland is properly valued at present under the natural capital approach. The current approach is too time restricted in terms of its support, at only 10 years, because for woodland for biodiversity or slow growing woodland there’s no income for several decades.

  • Planting is only the start of the thing, the management is the ongoing challenge and if people get paid for the planting up front but nothing for ongoing management they won’t care for the trees.

  • I worry about people talking about eucalyptus, they’ve had such negative impacts in other parts of the world like Australia, Portugal and parts of America. It could be a dangerous road to start down.

  • Most agricultural tenancies prevent tenants from planting trees which would prevent 50% of Dartmoor farmers from taking part in any options around tree planting.

  • Managing hedges for firewood works for personal use but not convinced it’s financially viable.

  • We’ve each got mature trees in fields, on hedges, good trees in hedges and small copices already there which needs looking after.

  • Our BPS currently takes out payment where we have a large tree, which provides shade for livestock, because it provides shade.

  • We can all do a little bit which makes a significant difference.

  • Not a fan of letting whole hedge grow up, because they can take a lot of light and reduce yield but in favour of having spread out standing trees in hedgerows – 7 to 15 year rotations for hedges can work for some people but anything that allows the fruit and the flowers in hedges is great. Devon bank hedgerows are renowned for their plant diversity – already there, maintain what we have. It’s about managing the hedgerows well and with biodiversity in mind.

  • It’s important to have protection/ recognition for ancient and veteran trees.

  • We need to talk about farmers and farmers and foresters being foresters – historically they were both, today maybe it’s a different role for each generation.

  • There is evidence available about where orchards used to be present.

  • Natural regeneration varies across Dartmoor, do we value different types of regeneration differently? Does there need to be some assessment of the quality of regeneration? How do we balance any value for regeneration with grazing, if regeneration becomes too prevalent but it’s valued how do we maintain the regeneration/grazing balance without regeneration taking precedence over grazing? Regeneration is a nice way to ensure succession where there are existing trees in the landscape. Just because it's regeneration does it mean it's the right tree in the right place? If trees prevent swaling will that mean we can’t then manage the dwarf shrub so instead then of having a mosaic of habitats it will become a monoculture woodland? People will be wary of allowing trees to come up if it ties their hand on all future management options. Does the decision about where to allow regeneration need to be more intentional?

  • Staggering new planting helps later to stagger the burden of management.

  • We’re going to have an economic challenge managing deer if the deer population continues to grow and it could significantly impact the economic viability of trees further.

  • Looking at more joined up tree management could be a source of a new employment for young people.

  • There might be ways of joining up existing small pockets of woodland but I have a concern about how we manage that and who manages it.

  • It would be really interesting to know what level of grazing worked in woodlands, what kind of woodlands and what density of planting. Particularly for areas managed for conservation, or protected areas, rather than on common or farmland.

  • Can we also get paid to take out volunteers and control trees which are growing in inappropriate places?

  • Can we reach consensus about where regen can stay, where it’s beneficial? More consensus about where woodland works well will make it easier to identify where it’s not desirable for woodland to re-establish.

  • When it comes to trees the general public are more likely to complain where it affects their views than they are to appreciate where it’s benefiting water.

  • It’s about balance on the commons, areas of good grazing and areas of regeneration.

  • It would be good to encourage standard trees, not just flailed hedges.

  • With climate change and increased visitors wildfires is increasingly a risk. If trees and scrub are becoming increasingly prevalent managing for wildfires will become increasingly challenging.

Asking for view on the native non-native tree debate:

  • You should look what grows in your area for inspiration.

  • It’s important to have a broader diversity of trees as we can and leave every option wide open but obviously plants based on site and location.

  • Right tree in right place – agree on don’t close any doors.

  • We have all sorts of reasons for growing different tree varieties.

  • More diversity is good, particularly when we look at how diseases like ash die back can have such a significant impact and offers come protection. Diversity on farm but on the common I think we need to be careful not to interrupt existing ecology, you tend to have older unmanaged woodland system.


If you would also like to see results from our questionnaire on trees in the landscape they're available here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-R958NTG37/


Unfortunately you will not be able to see any written comments as this option cannot be enabled without sharing personal data, sorry. If you'd really like the comments please email me on hbell@dartmoor.gov.uk and I'll do my best to send them to you.

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