Ecclesville Forest is located within the Ecclesville Demesne, Fintona in the heart of West Tyrone.
The Demesne was gifted in the will of Mr Brown-Lecky to the Northern Ireland Government in 1962 and was subsequently handed over to the Northern Ireland Forestry Service in 1963 to manage. Ownership of the Forest passed to the legacy Omagh District Council in 1995 and then to Fermanagh and Omagh District Council at its inception in 2015.
The Forest, covering 40.7ha of the 77ha Demesne, consisted primarily of Norway Spruce, Sitka Spruce and larch with some broadleaves to break up the uniform landscape and add to the rich biodiversity.
There is a network of hardcore paths which are popular for use by walkers and pony trekkers from the local Equestrian Centre.
Forest Management Plan
A Forest Management Plan was developed to help to deliver current and future benefits that residents of, and visitors to, the District can derive from the Forest. The Plan is also intended to enable sustainable wood production, carbon sequestration, biodiversity and recreational opportunities.
The four objectives identified in the Forest Management Plan are:
- Restructure the Forest to break up the even-aged conifer monoculture through phased felling and replanting;
- Protect and enhance the biodiversity value within the Forest;
- Enhance the amenity and landscape value of the Forest and encourage public access into it; and
- Maintain and protect special features in the Forest such as the archaeological sites.
The Ecclesville Forest Management Plan is also aligned to the Council’s Climate Change and Sustainable Development and Biodiversity Strategies.
Due to the dense canopy created by the non-native conifers, light was unable to penetrate to the forest floor which adversely impacted the structural and species diversity of the Forest. As a result, and in keeping with the objectives of the Forest Management Plan, enhancement works were undertaken in January 2022 to remove the non-native trees and replace them with native oak, birch and hazel. The planting of native trees is important as they have adapted to the local climate, soil type and wildlife and they can connect with native habitats to ensure local biodiversity and wildlife, such as Red Squirrel, can flourish.
The works also included the removal of rhododendron and laurel bushes which are invasive species which suppress native flora and wildlife and prevent the regeneration of young trees.
Consultation on Review of the Ecclesville Forest Management Plan
The Forest Management Plan is regularly reviewed to ensure it remains current and continues to meet the diverse and often competing needs of people, wildlife and the environment.
The Council is recently invited individuals and organisations to have their say on the eight key topics within the Forest Management Plan:
- Protecting water quality
- Enabling enjoyment of the forest by local people and visitors
- Forest structure
- Regenerating the forest
- Growing tree sustainably
- Minimising the use of pesticides
- Targeting invasive species
- Protecting habitats, historic environment and species
The consultation was open from Wednesday 24 May to Wednesday 21 June 2023.