A unique system for forestry: the Bradford-Hutt system of continuous cover forestry

man in a forestIn the 1960s, a unique forestry system called the Bradford-Hutt system was put into practice despite much criticism.  Its goal was to transform young even-aged forest stands to achieve continuous cover woodland.  The system was started in the 1960s at the Tavistock Estate in Devon and although it was the subject of much debate in forestry, was put into practice and, commendably, has been followed through to the present day.  After 54 years of application, how successful has it been?

To learn more about the Bradford-Hutt system and its relevance to modern forestry in Britain, Forest Research recently undertook a project to review its performance. The results have now been published and the success of the system in creating mixed species stands with an uneven-age structure has led to international recognition for what has been achieved at Tavistock.

Four main lessons are identified for continuous cover forest management.  The first is importance of the continuity of management to the success of the system; another is the importance of access for forest operations - one excellent aspect of the system is the regularly spaced extraction racks.  The third lesson is the need for ‘adaptive forest management’ so that adjustments to objectives and management can be made according to how things are working in practice.  Finally, the importance of recording management actions and financial records is emphasised.

Although it now seems clear that the experiment has been a success, this was not so clear earlier in the life of the project and so it has not been widely applied elsewhere.  It is hoped that through this work the Bradford-Hutt system can be used to inspire and inform contemporary approaches to continuous cover forest management and the creation of more ‘resilient’ woodlands.

The research was funded by the Forestry Commission and the Tavistock Estate (owner: Rt. Hon. 7th Earl of Bradford; Agent: James Squier).

If you would like further information on the research or a copy of the paper, please contact Gary Kerr, or see the continuous cover silviculture pages of our website.