Plas yn Iâl Project Introduction

Site: Plas yn Iâl, Llandegla, Wrexham, Denbighshire

Technical Officer: Dafydd Owen

Project title: Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) in Farm Woodlands


Introduction to project: 

Background to Plas yn Iâl

Plas yn Iâl is a 75 hectare (ha) sheep farm that includes 12.5ha of mainly mixed broadleaf (>90%) and small components of larch and Scots’ pine. The woodland at Plas yn Iâl is part of a newly designated (2015) CADW Registered Historic Woodland & Parkland and has been left unmanaged for 65 years. The majority of the trees in Plas yn Iâl were planted during the 1800’s and 1900’s, presumably as part of a landscaping plan. It is therefore a combination of remnant natural woodland and plantation woodland with beech, sycamore and ash being the predominant species.
All timber extracted from the woodland is chipped (external contractor) and used
for the 70kw biomass boiler that heats the family home and attached self-catered

Rational for the project

The cultural landscape and conservation are both very important to Huw Beech who farms at Plas yn Iâl therefore commercial gain is not the primary objective of woodland management at Plas yn Iâl.
Huw aims to integrate income generation whilst improving and enhancing environmental and biodiversity benefits by increasing the capital value of the woodland on the farm and providing multiple benefits in a cost-effective way. Continuous cover forestry is therefore a very suitable management method.

Why Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) is best utilised as the best practice silvicultural method for the project?

CCF is where individual trees are extracted to maintain permanent woodland cover while allowing the production of commercial timber, hand in hand with bio-diversity as a product. It’s an efficient management method to provide economic, environmental and social benefits. CCF is also a more carbon efficient forest management system, particularly where natural regeneration is the main recruitment method.

CCF contributes to the sustainable management of natural resources, and single tree selection or small coupe felling allows open canopy that can accommodate enrichment planting and introduction of a more diverse and resilient range of species to climate change.

Project content

The project will look at assessing the history and condition of the woodland, planning the transformation to CCF and monitoring the progress of transformation.

This will be done by;

  • Undertaking both ground and drone surveys.
  • Data from the drone survey will be inputted into a data processing model.
  • Results from both ground and drone surveys will be combined to create one CCF management plan.
  • Margin of error will be analysed to see if the drone and data processing model is suitable to be extrapolated over larger areas to reduce the need for ground surveys with the objective of reducing cost.

The management plan will work as a management tool to guide the woodland owner on methodologies for prescriptions to be implemented in transforming the woodland to CCF.

Modelling and future vision incorporated within the plan will provide clarity and an incentive for other farmers to improve their woodland management to gain potential economic and environmental values from their ‘forgotten assets’.

Reports and articles associated with the project will be part of the knowledge transfer process and provide guidance for farmers to follow.

All timber extracted during the course of the project will be valued in line with present day market value for quality and grade category. Similarly, felling and extraction costs will be calculated to determine project costs when implementing a small-scale harvesting operation. All calculations linked to financial elements of the project will be tabulated and presented within associated reports.

Phil Morgan, director of Sustainable Forest Management and SelectFor will work with Farming Connect to prepare the CCF sample plots and a sustainable management plan as a guide for ongoing management.


Project aim:

  • Improve overall woodland management at Plas yn Iâl that will contribute a sustainable timber supply towards the farm’s energy needs. This will be done by preparing and implementing a Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) woodland management plan, combining results of both ground and drone surveys. 
  • In providing yield class and potential annual increment in timber volume for target felling in years to come, a potential value will be calculated and a figure for revenue determined.
  • The sampling method/ground survey will gather both timber and commercial data from the woodland providing records of changes in woodland characteristics and structure over time to monitor the progress of the transformation. The effects of continuous cover management in improving beneficial outcomes such as conservation, biodiversity, carbon sequestration and other factors can all be easily worked into the sampling method.
  • The vision for the woodland will be at the core of the management plan. The vision will steer all the operations required to deliver the desired outcomes while meeting the constraints of the site and any designations relating to the site. Continuous cover forestry will be used as the management approach to deliver the integrated multiple benefits of transformation.
  • Providing an example of the integration of a farm woodland into the farm business, by promoting the potential economic gains of ‘forgotten assets’ will be a good incentive for farmers to follow a similar route. 
  • The use of a drone and the data processing model is a new innovative way of forest management planning. This could provide benefits to farmers and foresters if the drone and software could be extrapolated further over larger woodlands.

What will be done:

A physical survey of the woodland will be done first at Plas yn Iâl, followed by a drone survey. 

  • Both surveys will be carried out close to the same time so that the comparison is close during the growing season.The drone operator will be CAA-approved and will be able to use it for the purpose of the exemplar.
  • The data collected by the drone will be inputted into a data processing model and the results will be combined with the physical survey to create one CCF woodland management plan.
  • The margin of error between the drone and physical survey will also be analysed.
  • Felling/restocking will be in accordance with the CCF management plan.
  • All harvesting operations will be monitored.
  • All timber assessed for felling will be valued and costs relating to felling and extraction calculated to determine the value of the resource to the farm business which can be modelled for a period of years to come.
  • The final report will provide clarity in what can be achieved provided that the correct options are undertaken and best practice followed with any intervention.

What information will be recorded:

The physical survey will be in greater detail than the drone photogrammetry; it will record tree sizes, species composition, regeneration, field layers and pole size trees that the drone will not able to detect.

The drone survey will provide less detail but will be accurate for estimating volume and stages of transformation to CCF.

The benefit for the project is that the data can be extrapolated over larger areas i.e. by modelling the results of the ground survey, the drone data can be applied over wide areas reducing the amount of ground survey required, so reducing costs.

Welsh Government have recently flown the whole of Wales with LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging). The proposal is that this information will be available at no cost, however, the timescale for information delivery might not be compatible with the Farming Connect project.

The reason for having both a ground survey and a drone survey is because both are needed to set up larger inventories. The drone survey requires calibration using on-the-ground inventory techniques but reduces the amount of ground work when the data from the drone is stratified. In the case of this project, we are undertaking a detailed survey of a quite diverse farm woodland that consists of different woodland types and different stand types. The ground survey will account for the variation in the woodland and is a ‘research stand’ rather than a more extensive inventory where the sampling intensity is lower. We will use the drone to test its use on farm woodlands and as a demonstration about woodland survey techniques during the training element of the project.

Other information/data that will be recorded:

  • Potential annual timber increment
  • Financial value for potential annual timber harvested
  • Felling/extraction costs
  • Area of farm woodland under management in Wales
  • Area of woodland managed by Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) principles in Wales
  • Area of woodland in Wales under Irregular Silviculture Network (ISN) inventory
  • Volume/tonnage of farm woodland timber production
  • Volume/tonnage of farm woodland own-use timber production
  • Number of farm woodland own-use products identified (woodfuel, firewood, fencing stakes, sawn timber etc).