Near Armathwaite are two delightful woods: Coombs Wood and High Stand. Both of these are owned and managed by the Forestry Commission. In October 2016, we met with the managers who told us the following – though the policies may of course change in future.
The Forestry Commission has an ‘Access for all’ policy. They welcome walkers, horse riders and mountain bikers anywhere in both woods.
The creation of mountain bike trails is discouraged, because of concerns that trails may not be maintained, endangering future users; or that trail users may endanger pedestrians. Trails may be removed accordingly.
Coombs Wood is a PAWS, which means it is protected ancient woodland. The chief concern for the management of the wood is soil erosion. So the Forestry Commission are now managing it with a continuous cover policy, which means is that they will ensure there will always be trees in each area.
Currently the Forestry Commission team are working on thinning the trees in Coombs Wood to allow the best ones to flourish. That unfortunately means they have to restrict access there for a while. This is a 20% thinning; they will remove the trees in the way of the best ones, but leave the majority. A major problem for them is the steep slopes. When these were planted manpower was cheap; now it is much more expensive. The current thinning process does not tackle these woods, but the foresters plan in future to fell strips, allowing them to thin the slopes without a clear cut.
So, except where there are felling operations going on, we have a wonderful resource for walkers, horse riders and mountain bikers, which is being carefully maintained for future generations.
[Photo © Copyright John Illingworth and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence, modifications © Charles Weir]