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Paradise Wood

Introducing a national research woodland

Tree breeding programme

Paradise Wood © Barney WilczacLocated in the scenic Thames Valley in Oxfordshire, Paradise Wood is a national research woodland dedicated to the improvement of hardwood tree species for increased timber productivity. The wood was established in 1993 on former arable land known in medieval times as ‘Paradise Field’, and since then around 60,000 trees have been planted.

The Earth Trust, in collaboration with other organisations, has established a number of forestry trials in Paradise Wood, which have evolved to become the largest collection of hardwood forestry trials in Britain. We selected five species to include in our tree breeding programme: ash, beech, cherry, oak and walnut. We also undertake additional research into the environmental and economic aspects of commercial broadleaved forestry. Further details of the research projects can be found on our Forestry Research pages.

Why the need for forestry research?

Britain imports far more hardwood than it grows. Increasing pressure is being put on consumers not to purchase tropical hardwoods, and strict control has been put on their importation so it's important that the UK is able to provide an inexpensive, home-grown alternative. Find out more about species research at Paradise Wood.

Paradise Wood Map

In order to control the scientific trials there is no public access to Paradise Wood; however this map, created as part of our Sense of Place project, can let you know more about our forestry research, click on the red dots to find out more.

Ash Breeding Seedling Orchard (BSO)

Established in partnership with the Future Trees Trust in March 1993, this is one of the earliest trials at Paradise Wood. The intention is to produce seed of improved quality for timber production, with gains in recoverable volume of between 15 to 20%. It comprises 36 families, mainly from good ash growing areas such as the Welsh Marches and southern England.

Oak Breeding Seedling Orchard (BSO)

Oaks are a familiar feature of our landscape and provide a valuable wildlife habitat. The timber is widely used due to its great structural strength and decorative appearance. There are two native oaks in Britain, English (or Penduculate) Oak Quercus robur (left), which favours lowland areas, and Sessile Oak, Q. petraea (right), which is more common in uplands areas of north and west of Britain.

The Oak BSO was planted in 2003, with stock grown from acorns selected from 56 ‘plus’ trees with favourable vessel size from across the UK, the Netherlands, Ireland and France. The trees, which include Q.robur, Q.petraea and their hybrids, are randomly planted together and allowed to interbreed. These 56 families are also planted in a demonstration row of seven trees in front of the BSO to allow comparison between families. The trial is replicated across several other sites in the UK and Ireland.

Research into Beech Fagus sylvatica

Beech Fagus sylvatica L. is the second most important broadleaved species in Britain (after Oak). Beech timber is strong, straight-grained and even-textured, easily turned and bends well. It is widely used for furniture, flooring, constructional work and kitchen utensils.

Beech would be more widely planted in Britain if a number of issues were addressed. It is very prone to squirrel damage, which reduces timber quality. Good mast years are infrequent, resulting in poor seed production and natural regeneration. Predicted climate change suggests that the south of England will become unsuitable for growing beech that is native to England. It is therefore necessary to assess provenances from continental Europe for their suitability for growing in the UK in the future.

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The Sense of Place project was kindly funded by the following: