This is known as ‘in-hand’ woodland. Although the areas of woodland are scattered across the Duchy’s landholding, significant proportions fall within the counties of Cornwall (nearly 900 hectares) and Herefordshire (nearly 600 hectares).
The woodlands in Cornwall and Devon are mostly dominated by conifers (often known as softwoods), particularly Douglas fir, larch and red cedar. Such fast-growing species were planted back in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, either on former fields that were no longer suitable for use in agriculture, or in existing woodland. These species perform very well in the warm, moist climate of the south-west peninsula.
The woodlands in Herefordshire tend to contain more native broadleaved species, particularly oak, ash, chestnut, cherry and hazel. The deep and loamy soils in this part of the country make it an outstanding area for growing fine quality hardwoods.
In 1997 the Duchy adopted a new approach to management involving the use of ‘close-to-nature’ or ‘continuous cover’ forestry principles. The main aim is to rely wherever possible on nature to achieve sustainable and diverse woodlands. Sensitively managed, these woodlands will not only contain valuable timber and a wealth of wildlife but will also be attractive environments for the public, many of whom enjoy strolling through the Duchy’s woods.
Sometimes a particularly rare species or feature is found within a woodland, requiring a unique plan of action. Greenscombe Wood in east Cornwall contains a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the presence of the rare heath fritillary butterfly. Management here is focused on maintaining a suitable habitat for this species. Aconbury Wood in Herefordshire contains a hill fort which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and the woodland is managed with the aim of preserving the hill fort for future generations to enjoy.
Timber harvested from the woodlands is sold into a variety of markets or is used on the wider Duchy estate. Wood is used in the Duchy Originals range of garden tools and garden furniture and woodchip is used to smoke some of the food products.
Timber from Aconbury Wood has been used for regeneration work at Harewood End in Herefordshire, including lintels, window frames and beams.
Nearly all of the Duchy’s in-hand woodland is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified.