NFP Logo
The Art of Natural Forest Practice
Welsh Logo


Caring for Glades
(third in the series on glades) edited 17th June 2011


Top Glade

Iliff Surveying

The author surveying a glade the first spring after its creationThere are some wood anemone and bluebell, a few ferns and very occasional archangel.   Indications are that by the second spring these will be flourishing and trees and shrubs, such as ash and hazel will have germinated.  Where good germination occurs there is little or no need to transplant.

Glade Yrglade


It’s magical!




I first came across natural glades, as distinct from man-made clearings (which are larger), in the dense coniferous forests of Oregon.  The surrounding forest was deathly quiet, yet the glades were vibrant with bird song, blossom, insects and more.  Nature had achieved this by bringing down a large tree to create a small glade.  The effect of this was to diversify the forest, making it rich and complex and thus restoring the health of the forest community as a whole.

I have since observed this same process taking place in my own broadleaf woodland in Wales.  I have been learning how to replicate natural processes by inserting glades and have so far created about fifty.  By mimicking nature, letting in a modicum of light and rain, the health of the woodland community as a whole is vividly being restored.  Taking the top off a tree and exposing the trunk, makes it appear taller and creates a sense of maturity.

* So having created our glade what do we do next?  We cannot simply abandon the glade as in all likelihood the tree canopy will gradually close over, preventing light and rain reaching the ground.

* Every glade we create will be different, having its own characteristics and reason for being there.  Some exist to let light and moisture into the woodland, others to conserve special flora, and yet more to encourage diversity of trees, shrubs and ground flora that the larger trees, such as oak, elm and ash, would otherwise shade out.

* Late spring is the best time to survey the glades.  The greens are still diverse, the trees are just starting to cast deep shade, and we can readily pick-out and clear the seedling trees.  Not until the second spring after creating the glade will the ground flora visibly respond.

* By May the sun is high in the sky (northern hemisphere) and we can observe whether shafts of sunlight are penetrating to the ground and where we might top or take out any more trees or shrubs next winter.  We deliberately made the glades a little small as we can then enlarge them if need be, but we can’t make them smaller. Too big and we risk damaging the woodland, letting in too much light and air, and the brambles grow prolifically.

* Glades on south facing slopes are much easier to create and maintain than those facing north.  The sun reaches the ground much more readily with the first, yet is all too easily excluded from the latter where the sun may have to penetrate through considerable brushwood.  I advocate taking out a little year on year as I see where the light is blocked.

* I find it helps to make notes of each glade; its location, why it’s there, date created, intervention record, etc.  This is invaluable in building-up my experience and provides essential continuity for a future owner.  I locate the glades on a map and number them for cross-reference to my records.  I tried a computer data base but found a card index rather more versatile.

* Creating glades is central to caring for woodland and forest and I have become more familiar with every corner and variation of my woodland.  Nature remains firmly in control because we are providing a helping-hand, not taking over.

A good scattering of glades is like a barometer reflecting the condition of the woodland as a whole.  My woodland, although a mere fragment of the original wildwood, has in this way become an ancient wildwood in miniature.  Walking in the woodland we experience cool shade alternating with pools of sunlight where a mosaic of flowers bloom, birds sing and insects hum.  Shrubs, bushes and ground flora are so vibrant that the fox or badger might be watching only a few feet away and we’d never know.

I’d be very interested to hear how you get on.  Please let me know