Management Plan

The Darch’s Wood Management Plan for 3 Years Ending 31st January 2020

 The following information is extracted from the full report that was prepared on 3rd August 2016

Copies of the complete plan are available on request by emailing


1. Summary
The Amenities Society prepared a report in August 2016 aimed at providing an analysis of the current condition of Darch’s Wood and the proposed actions to improve the ecological integrity of the wood for native fauna and flora, and to improve access for visitors.  
Darch’s Wood is a popular amenity for dog walkers, and more recently geocachers, from near and far, but it falls on a small number of Cross-in-Hand residents with support from the Parish Council to maintain the wood and preserve it for future generations.
The report takes into account the information and recommendations detailed in previous management reports prepared by Plumpton Agricultural College and Independent Woodland Services.
The plan priorities relate to path restoration, pond restoration and rhododendron clearance.

2. Background Information
The wood covers 40 acres (16.2 hectares) as is located in Cross-in-Hand, near Heathfield, East Sussex, Grid Reference: TQ 566211.  The wood is located south and west of the A267 and east of Back Lane.
The main access is behind St Bartholomew’s Church on Little London Road.  Other access points are on Back Lane and New Pond Hill.
The woodland was bequeathed to the Cross-in-Hand Amenities Society by Mrs Margaret Marr Darch in 1976 for the benefit and enjoyment of the community.  Management and maintenance of the woodland is the responsibility of the trustees on the Management Committee of the Society.
The woodland is an amenity open to the general public for their enjoyment.  There is no obligation for users to live in the Parish or be members of the Cross-in-Hand Amenities Society.  
A statutory right of way crosses the woodland, running past New Pond Farm to the entrance opposite St Olive’s Close on Back Lane.

3. Our long-term vision
  • To provide an amenity for the benefit of the community.
  • To safeguard the woodland for future generations by developing a mixed age class of naturally found species.
  • To preserve the rustic nature of the wood.
  • To provide a habitat beneficial to the native wildlife.
  • To provide natural woodland vistas.
  • To provide natural all weather rides and pathways.

4. Our Environmental Policy
Dead wood is an important habitat for insects and small animals, and should be left in situ unless it is seen to be dangerous.  This should include standing dead wood as well as fallen, and is a particularly good feeding ground for woodpeckers.  Large diameter fallen wood should not be cut up, and where possible it should not be moved any distance from its original site.
Chemicals used in the wood must be approved by English Woodlands and used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.  Only qualified persons with the proper training and safety clothing should use chemicals.  Particular care should be taken near watercourses and to ensure chemicals do not affect walkers, dogs and native wildlife.
Rhododendron ponticum is an invasive alien species that has become a threat to national woodlands and is a particular problem in Darch’s Wood.  It is particularly hardy and responds to cutting or burning by producing rapidly growing shoots that spread rapidly.  It is resistant to herbicides, is shade tolerant, and suppresses the growth of surrounding plants. It can only be removed by cutting and subsequent chemical treatment to the stump and new shoots.  The long-term objective is to remove all rhododendron.
Japanese knotweed should be treated with glyphospate.
Himalayan balsam should be eradicated by pulling them up.

5. Basic Maintenance
Covered under the Parish Council General Maintenance Budget.
This includes, amongst other tasks, grass cutting, path clearance, ditching, silt pond clearance, seat, bridge and fence repairs, and the removal of dangerous or fallen trees.  
A representative of the contractor will visually inspect the large trees for damage on a six monthly basis or after a severe storm.

6. Our Priorities
  • The number one priority which, once completed, there would be little required in terms of maintaining the surfaces of these stretches of path for well over 10 years.
  • The acquisition and laying of road planings along the muddiest stretches has proved to be very successful.  It is proposed that this method is continued.
  • The two main paths from the church towards the pond have been the main focus to date.  
  • The main ride from the church to the public footpath near New Pond Farm is the emergency vehicle access route, and therefore needs to be usable by road vehicles at all times of the year.
  • The principal objective is to create an all weather surface to run in a loop between the church to the pond.
  • The two rides starting out from the kissing gate on Back Lane running down to the pond are prone to waterlogging.  
  • Smaller paths at the southern end of the wood have deteriorated in recent years.

Pond maintenance
  • The pond has been silting up to a point where it will soon be beyond salvation and a special feature in the wood will be lost.
  • The extent of the work required is a once in a generation exercise and, from the historic records, it appears that the pond was last de-silted approximately 25 years ago shortly after the silt beds were installed.  
  • Although clearing the silt ponds is a regular maintenance activity, over time silt will build up in the pond itself.  
  • The northern and western sides of the pond are particularly badly silted, and in need of dredging before the silt builds up further.
  • The surface tends to become covered by the lilies, and this reduces the amount of oxygen in the water with the consequence that the health of the fish stocks will be at risk.  

Rhododendron Clearance
  • There are some areas within the woodland where the rhododendron is aesthetically pleasing, and the clearance programme will not impact these areas.  Such areas include around the pond, the rhododendron walk from St Bart’s church, and along the eastern side of the main ride from the church.
  • Rhododendron clearance is very labour intensive and is dependent on the terrain and the density of plants.  
  • The method followed will involve the contractor cutting down the rhododendron and chipping the cuttings.  This technique will ensure that the topsoil remains in place and is not eroded as roots are clawed up.  As new growth takes place later in the year, chemicals will be applied to the new shoots to kill the rhododendron.   
  • The main area of concern alongside the ride from the church to the pond covering much of compartment 3 and the top end of compartment 2 has already been cleared and the second phase of chemical treatment is scheduled for the autumn of 2016. .

Tree work
  • Specific plans for tree work are not included in the plan.  It is understood that where large trees pose a danger to public safety, be they dead diseased or dangerous, clearance, lopping or felling will fall under the General Maintenance budget held by the Parish Council.

7. Implementation
Action required
Target Date
Spray new rhododendron shoots in the cleared area.
The newly cut rhododendron needs to be chemically treated once the new shoots appear in order to kill it.
Acquire 15 loads of road planings to a pre-determined budget limit.
Road planings are a cost effective way of restoring the paths to not only make them an all weather surface sympathetic to the woodland environment, but also to significantly improve access to the wood.  
Laying road planings
10 hours labour and equipment hire over 2 years to lay paths using previously acquired road planings.
07/2017 to
Clear silt from the pond by engaging professional contractors
The pond has partially silted up to the extent that in parts, particularly to the western side of the island, the water is only inches deep, and after lengthy periods without rain is above the surface of the water.
Clear excess lilies from the pond as part of the above
In high summer the lilies cover almost the entire south side of the pond.
Rhododendron clearance
Four days labour to remove rhododendron and one day for subsequent spraying in an area of woodland to be determined nearer the date.

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