Woodland management in France

Earlier this week I revisited a woodland at the foot of the Jura mountains in France that I also photographed in mid February before the snow returned. I was able to take some before and after pictures of small trees marked for felling by the French Office National des Forets, and then felled, and also see how property boundaries are marked.

The contrast between the two visits is striking. Warm and sunny in February, but cold, overcast and snowy in March. The wood is mostly oak, with patches of Scots Pine, and hazel trees here and there. It’s very open at ground level, one of the hints that it is managed.

On my second visit, guys from the Office had signs up and were felling small trees beside a track alongside a farmer’s field at the woodland edge.

These two pictures show some of these trees marked up with spray paint and then felled. The brash has been placed over some of the stumps to protect the regrowth from deer.

When you walk deeper into the wood, you cross banks and ditches which help mark out the boundaries of the “parcelles cadastrales” into which the French countryside is divided, for the purposes of land ownership or rights to collect the produce of the land like wood.

Occasionally there are also marker stones like this, which are much easier to spot in the snow. There’s another one at the bottom end of the ditch on the right, highlighted with orange spray paint.

This photo shows more orange boundary markings sprayed onto stones and trees. It’s at a point where there is a dog leg in the ditch, which is indicated on the tree trunk by spray paint. You can just make out the line of the ditch from the splashes of orange colour. I’m expecting to see activity in this area now that it has been marked out.

Snow changes the character of the ground. It hides some features, but makes others easier to see. In this last picture, you can see a small root plate and due to the snow, the soil gradually coming off the roots can clearly be seen whereas normally it would be lost on the ground.

I wasn’t able to photograph my last observation of the March trip: I startled a group of half a dozen deer who bounded off before I could get a photo of them.

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