© Copyright Jonathan Thacker and licensed for reuse


Laughton Forest is a fascinating example of a dramatic change in the English landscape. The wooded area that people now drive through was in living memory a very much different landscape. The driving force for this change was the First World War. The blockade on timber imports and the resulting annihilation of British woodlands led to the formation of the Forestry Commission in 1919 and the widespread planting of trees, including those at Laughton in the decades that followed. A history of the early years of Laughton Forest (up to November 1951) was written by T V Dent, who was District Officer at the time, and it was reading that document that prompted this work. I began my forestry career as a schoolboy working in Laughton Forest in 1966, working with a gang including Norman Bull, Frank Savage, Harry Thompson, Eric Hildred, Tom Tredwell and others and so I have known the Forest for over half of its existence. This account focuses on administration of the Forest – the events related below describe the visions which have driven the management of the Forest, initially creating a strategic reserve for time of war, then considering the Forest as an economic resource, and now seeing it as a productive area which also contains invaluable biodiversity. The task has not always been straightforward - the challenges and some errors are described below – but what is clear is the ongoing dedication of the people who have helped to create the Forest we see today.

I have concentrated on the management issues of Laughton Forest over the past 85 years –but there are many tales yet untold of its people and events. I hope that this brief account triggers memories and leads to a better understanding of the history of this fascinating area.

For sake of consistency and understanding, I have converted most imperial measurements and pre-decimal currency into modern units.

I wish to thank Andy Medhurst and Andy Powers of the Forestry Commission for their support and help, Eric Hildred and Di and Bob Millward of Laughton, John Hendrie of Lincoln and Geoff and Pam Staples of Scotter who offered me invaluable information and assistance.

Rob Guest B.SC.(For), M.For.Sc.,MNZIF

May Hill, Gloucestershire

October 2013

The area before the creation of the Forest

At the time of creating the Forest, the area was described as a rabbit infested sandy waste which was used only for sporting purposes. The eastern area was a desolate stretch of Molinia and Calluna heath, with patches of scrub birch, whilst Hardwick Hill and some of the lower areas were deserts of blowing sand. There were a few patches of Scots Pine scattered over the area.

The 1st edition of the OS map of 1824 describes the whole area as Scotton Common, depicted as waste. Although Laughton Wood is named, it is not outlined. The only dwellings shown in the area are Hardwick Warren House (which was still occupied by the Dannatt family in the 1950’s but has since been demolished), The Lodge, one dwelling at Laughton Wood Corner, and a mill near where the Forestry bungalows now stand. An extract from a map of 1885 (see below) shows little tree cover - the outline of Laughton Wood is depicted occupying just the area around Laughton Wood Corner and there is also a small copse on the slopes below Laughton Lodge.



It seems the area has a long history of settlement – particularly on the prominent hilltop overlooking the Trent valley. In 1934, various prehistoric implements from Neolithic and Bronze Age eras were found in a sandy field off the Scotton-Laughton Road and in 1939 many implements from the Aurignacian era were found on Hardwick Hill. The Trent used to flow much closer to the Forest, and the remains of a Roman Port were found nearby and in 1930 Dr RBF Eminson documented various Roman finds, including a site (probably a metal-working factory) from the Hardwick Hill area. Eminson recorded that the area had been covered with blown sand as recently as the 19th Century.

The original vegetation was classified into four main types:

Purple Moor Grass (Molinia caerulea) in the poorly drained flats and hollows. Interesting flora associated with type includes marsh gentian (Gentiana pneumonanthe), dwarf willow (Salix repens) and bog myrtle (Myrica gale).

Heather (Calluna vulgaris) on upper slopes and better drained lowland areas. These areas also have heath (Erica spp), Wavy hair-grass (Deschampsia flexuosa) and scattered scrub birch.

Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) on the better sites – mainly the slopes. Bramble (Rubus fruticosus) is sometimes found on these sites.

Sand sedge (Carex arenaria) on the drier sandy areas near Hardwick Hill

To the east of the area towards Scotton there is evidence of a large area of retting pits, (now known as Roses Ponds) used for soaking hemp to separate the fibres. These would have been dug where the soils allowed retention of the water in sites well away from settlements - it was a foul-smelling process. This led to a local legend and an interesting site in the Forest. Dickie Rainsforth was a fellmonger from East Ferry about 1800 earning his living by skinning animal carcasses. Apparently he fed animals the hemp water to make them sick (and thus increase his business!) and when discovered, he fled to a barn at East Ferry where rather than be captured he hanged himself. As a suicide, he was unable to be buried in consecrated ground and so he was buried at a crossroads on the Common – where his gravestone is still reputed to shake at midnight!

There was interesting wildlife associated with the heath. Most spectacular of all was the Great Bustard. A stuffed specimen shot in the area was exhibited in the Lodge in Laughton for many years until recently.

Great Bustard

Great Bustard

Ruffs were recorded as nesting until 1882, and Stone Curlew was found in the sandy areas to the west until 1886. Dunlin, redshank and Pallas’ sand-grouse were also recorded. In 1918, thousands of black headed gulls were nesting on the various ponds throughout the area. Black grouse and adders were regarded as common at that time.

Description of the Forest Area

The area of the Forest lies in the north-west corner of Lindsey, Lincolnshire about half way between Scunthorpe and Gainsborough barely half a mile to the east of the River Trent. It covers 909.5 hectares north of the village of Laughton, and south-west of Scotter and Scotton. Bounded to the east by the A159, an old pack horse track from East Ferry to Scotton (locally known as Rainsforth road) runs east-west through the heart of the Forest. The eastern area overlies Liassic clays, the area around Hardwick Hill is on Keuper Marl and the westernmost areas are on recent measures of the Trent estuary. The soils are generally very sandy overlying clay at varying depths and there are some small areas of gravel on the higher ridges. The sand itself is very fine, is easily blown by the wind and varies greatly in depth – up to thirty feet in the dune formations where the sand is buttressed against the western escarpment of Keuper Marl. The average rainfall is 660 mm per annum but the water table fluctuates widely and rapidly throughout the year. There are numerous shallow lakes around the area – some, such as Green Howe, being quite sizeable. Frost can be severe in the winter, particularly in the lower lying areas and late spring frosts in late May and early June posed problems for early tree establishment. Altitude varies from areas only slightly above sea level on the flats of the Trent Valley up to 40 metres on Hardwick Hill.



The 1920’s

The Forest

On 22/10/1926 The Forestry Commission leased from the Meynell estate a large area of land stretching from the East Ferry Road to the A159, plus areas to the south west collectively known as Laughton Common. This was supplemented on 4/4/1929 by the freehold purchase of an extension to the north around the twin hillocks of sand known as Tuetoes Hill. The details of the land leased and purchased to form the Forest are shown on the map overleaf.

Planting commenced in 1927 with Corsican and Scots Pine on the extreme western edge of the Forest and in the area to the south-west of Laughton Lodge. Initial planting was ca 45% Corsican, 37% Scots, with smaller areas of spruce. Planting was undertaken at 1.5 metre spacing in both pure stands and mixtures. Small areas of larch were tried but were not successful. In total, 104 hectares were planted in 1927 and a further 183 hectares planted by the turn of the decade. Some ploughing was done and on blowing sand the area was first “thatched” with wattle fences. Scots Pine was used on the rougher areas and on bracken sites.

Initially, the area was a huge rabbit warren, and intensive operations were undertaken to control the rabbits within the Forest with each area being fenced and carefully “warrened” before planting. Warreners continued to be employed throughout the decades.

People in the Forest

The first forester appointed to Laughton in 1926 was W Tribe and his office was based in Laughton Lodge. In the early years, when the creation of the Forest needed manpower and work was generally scarce, a number of the workers lived over the River Trent. They were ferried over at East Ferry, along with their bicycles, and cycled to and from the Forest each morning and night!

The history of land acquisition over the decades is shown below:



key to acquisitions

key to acquisitions

The 1930’s

The Forest

In 1933 a further area on Laughton Common to the west of the village was leased. Planting continued for the first five years of the decade at an average rate of 66 hectares per annum, with Corsican Pine planted on the drier sites and Sitka Spruce planted on the wetter areas but Scots Pine was not planted after 1930, although natural regeneration was accepted. Lodgepole pine was used to beat up Corsican Pine areas, but proved particularly susceptible to Tortrix (Evetria buoliana) and it was soon realised this would be a lower volume producer than the other pines. Several small areas of poplar were planted annually from 1927 to 1934 but results were generally disappointing. The exhaustion of the land bank and the slump meant little planting was done in the second half of the decade.

Many of the plants had come from a nursery established in the forest below the forestry bungalows - this required sheltering hedges to minimise windblow of the soil and over the next decade regular problems with frost were noted. A further nursery area was developed in the woods near Laughton Lodge.

Whilst many areas of Corsican Pine were thriving, it became apparent that a significant area had been planted with the “ursuline” variety and these did not do well. The areas planted on the very sandy sites were satisfactory, but some of the areas planted on bracken suffered from insufficient weeding and produced patchy crops. The most problematic sites were planted on those with heather where a pan formation in the soil restricted root development.

Sitka Spruce was chosen for planting on the wetter areas, on quite a large scale - often on turfs following draining. It never thrived – the varying soil moisture conditions and the dry climate put the trees under considerable stress, which made them more susceptible to insect attack, although it wasn’t until 1947 that it was finally accepted that the species was totally unsuitable for this Forest.

The irregular growth and patchy condition of the young plantations were best summarised in a report on the visit by Sir Roy Robinson in 1938 “Various factors have contributed to this condition – faulty choice of species, lack of soil cultivation, poor plants, bad planting and lack of weeding. This is an example of early establishment being sacrificed to initial cheapness of one or other of the essential operations”

The Forest environment

Apart from rabbits, black grouse were the biggest problem for the new plantations causing extensive damage to young pines. Col. Meynell (the owner of the estate) reluctantly agreed to have the black grouse reduced to a low figure – this reduction was eventually supplemented by disease and the black grouse disappeared from Laughton about the beginning of WWII.

People in the Forest

W Tribe continued as forester until 1933, and then J McGlashan took over until 1941. The slump had an impact on the Forest and funds did not allow for a labour force of the desired size. There were large areas of young trees and due to lack of manpower the standard of weeding was not always as good as might have been desired – resulting in variable crops.

The 1940’s

The Forest

In 1941, a significant lease added areas to the south of the main lease – including Jerry’s Bog, Dallison Plantation, and notably Laughton Wood.

The issue of the pan in some soils was addressed late in the decade by ploughing the sites before planting which led to much more satisfactory establishment. By 1947 it was accepted that virtually all of the Sitka Spruce plantings were unsuccessful because of the dry climate, the late spring frosts and the widely and rapidly fluctuating water table and the planting of the species had by now ceased. Almost all the planting was with Corsican and Scots Pine in pure stands and in 1949 a start was made on converting the worst areas of Sitka Spruce to Scots Pine. On some bracken sites with a gravelly soil there was some success with planting beech, albeit on a small scale and in other areas beech was planted under scrub birch. Interestingly, trials with planting birch were described as disappointing. Of the ca 200 hectares afforested during this decade only 7% was with broadleaves.

It is noteworthy that some of the planting was on areas of young plantation destroyed by fire. The dry climate, light sandy soil and large stands of young conifers meant that fire was a problem from March to October. A number of large fires in the early years of the decade resulted in action from 1943 to clear compartment boundaries of vegetation, and then they were ploughed and levelled. When allowed to re-vegetate, grass and sparse heather allowed passage for light vehicles throughout most of the year. In the years from 1946, some metalled roads were built to give quick access to most parts of the Forest (these also assisted with subsequent harvesting operations). The roads were constructed of 3 layers of different grades of rolled slag to a width of 2.75 metres – and at that time necessitated a significant investment of £700 - £930 per mile. In 1946 a fire tower was installed on Hardwick Hill, equipped with a telephone in direct contact with the exchange and the forester’s house. A lorry loaded with a large tank of water and a Hathaway pump was on standby during the fire season, and extra provision was made late in the decade when fire dams were installed at Hardwick Hill and in Dallison plantation. The risk was most acute in the gull-breeding season and when blackberries were ripe as more people entered the Forest at those times.

By this time, insects were causing some difficulties. The pine beetles (Hylastes, Myelophylus and Hylobius) were by now present everywhere and where suitable breeding material was present, developed large populations which affected young seedlings. Beetle trapping was carried out as a routine measure on a number of sites.

In 1945, Laughton was the first site to show an intensive attack of the pine leaf-mining moth (Evetria purdeyi) on Corsican Pine – with many trees losing their leading shoots. There was a ban imposed on removing Corsican Pine from Laughton Nursery to other forests and most areas planted between 1946 and 1948 were planted instead with Scots Pine – a decision subsequently criticised by the Chairman in his visit in 1950. The sickly Sitka Spruce by this time was also being affected by aphids (Neomyzaphis = Elatobium) and many of the young trees on sites being converted to Scots Pine were sold as Christmas trees.

In 1947, the lower parts of the Forest were flooded. The heavy snowfall that year thawed quickly and on March 23rd the Trent banks breached just below Morton near the Gymes. Gyme is an old Danish word for a hole scoured out behind a river bank at the site of a breach – the name suggests this repeated what had happened some 1000 years earlier! The breach left a gap in the bank 280 feet long and the gyme extended 250 feet inland and was 50 feet deep. Water poured onto the surrounding farmland and flooded the lowlands near the River some 15 miles down to Scunthorpe, also flooding the western parts of the Forest up to the foot of Hardwick Hill.

Thinning of the first plantings of pine occurred in 1948 with the produce converted to pitprops for the East Midlands coalfields, pointed hedge stakes for local farmers and firewood for Gainsborough and Scunthorpe. The crops were variable – and over the next three years 230 hectares were thinned yielding an average of 17.5 m³/ha. Gross revenue was £57 per hectare and net revenue £25.20 per hectare.

By this time there was a nursery of four hectares below the current site of the forestry bungalows where the fine sandy soil was particular suited to growing pine. The acid soil was enriched with compost produced on site, particularly using hop waste. Weeds were not a big problem - the biggest problem was windblow of the light sand, particularly soon after seed germination. Some ploughed rides were also deployed as nursery areas.

Tracing the archives of the Forest was complicated by the Forest being given entirely new compartment numbers in 1947, with records before and after that date using different numbers for the same area.

The Forest environment

By this stage, rabbits had been virtually eliminated from the Forest, although they were still reported to abound outside the fences. Snipe, woodcock, curlew and black headed gulls were still common nesting birds at this time although there were already indications that afforestation was causing the water table to be lowered and several lakes never previously known to dry up before were by this time waterless. Black grouse were by now uncommon.

People in the Forest

H Adams became forester in 1941 and held the post continuously until 1957. He was assisted by a foreman. Labour supply was very difficult during the war years, falling to 8 men and 5 women in the summer of 1944. The situation improved considerably after 1945 and numbers peaked at 26 men and 10 women in the summer of 1948. The women were principally employed in the nursery. Most workers were local residents, though Irish casual workers were deployed and German prisoners-of-war were used as late as 1948.

The 1950’s

The Forest

At the start of the decade ca 50 hectares of the best Corsican Pine areas were high pruned. The work was done by the female labour on piece work using long handled saws. 250 - 740 stems per hectare were pruned to 4.5 metres at a flat rate of 1p (2½d) per stem!!

Thinning continued, so that at the end of the decade some areas were having their third thinning. Produce was sold to Firbeck Timber Co. based north of Worksop. Some were standing sales – A class poles sold at £2.82 per m³ (1s.7½d per ft³) whereas other produce was felled by FC labour with produce sold to Firbeck at £3.88 per m³ (2s.2½d. per ft³).

In 1959 the area closest to Scotter village, known locally as Christmas Common, and which included the retting pits described earlier, was bought freehold from Gertrude Rose et al. and is now usually called Roses plantation. That year was particularly hot and dry and there were 12 significant fires in the Forest. According to Eric Hildred, these events precipitated a greater use of the fire brigade in tackling such fires, rather than relying on forestry workers.

The Forest environment

In 1956 a lone deer (presumably a fallow) took up residence in the Forest - it had come from the Brocklesby Estate near Grimsby where there used to be a deer park.

There were a number of reports of a ghostly black dog in Lincolnshire, with 39 incidents reported between 1829 and 1958. The animal became known as “the black shuck” and Laughton Forest was a regular site for reports.

In the late 50’s myxomatosis spread throughout Britain and decimated the rabbit population. It was to be many years before the population increased again to a level which caused problems for forestry in Laughton.

People in the Forest

In the early 1950’s the workforce had declined to about 20 which was well below the desired labour requirements and more houses were built to facilitate an increase in the workforce. By 1958 the total workforce was 30 – when Eric Hildred started work, about a third of the workforce were women, mostly employed in the nursery.

In 1957 John Ling took over as forester from H Adams. He was responsible to Lincoln District Office in Cambridge Conservancy

The 1960’s

The Forest

In 1960 small areas immediately to the west of Laughton village were leased from the Meynells as a supplement to the principal lease.

By 1962, there was no new sowing in the nursery, though seedlings from previous sowings were lined out and production of transplants continued with over 100,000 being despatched elsewhere. Only 8000 trees were planted in Laughton Forest itself - beating up areas established in earlier years.

Firbeck Timber Co, based near Worksop continued to be the main contractors, taking first thinning for pitprops and larger material as logs for milling. The forestry workforce continued to undertake first thinning, much material going for pulp with some firewood. Millwards took over from Firbecks as contractors – Bert with sons Mike and Bob had their own machinery and undertook most of the production. Trees were marked and tariffed by FC staff and the ganger Alf Bean did most of the marking. Production rose over the decade as shown below so that by the end of the decade, over 6000 cubic metres of timber was produced each year.

the rise in production in the 1960's

the rise in production in the 1960's

A breakdown of costs and returns for 1966 demonstrates both the degree of financial accounting and control and also the impact of overheads on the operations

FC production

Standing Sales

Volume in m³



Income in £



Forest cost



District overhead



Conservancy o/h



Estate o/h



HQ o/h



Net profit



Net profit/m³



At this time, Christmas trees were sold from the Lodge.

The Forest environment

Afforestation had by now caused a shift in the wildlife of the area with increased numbers of woodland species such as long-eared owl, tawny owl and sparrowhawk all breeding whilst woodcock and nightjar were reported as being common.

Maintenance of the Forest environment was high with a focus on maintaining a managed appearance throughout the Forest - rides were regularly mown and young plantations were routinely brashed.

People in the Forest

John Ling continued as forester throughout much of the 60’s – eventually handing over to D F (David) Marshall in 1968.

By the middle of the decade the workforce was reduced to about a dozen men who also worked at Elsham and Barnetby woods as well as Laughton.

The increasing demand for recreational uses of forests created some tensions at Laughton where the public did not have right of access over the leased land and the owners still valued the sporting opportunities. Once a year all the gates and access points were locked to reinforce the legal status.

The 1970’s

The Forest

The early 70’s were a period of consolidation. The Forest was fully established and the crops were not quite mature enough for clearfelling. Production from thinning, predominantly through standing sales, continued. In 1975, plans were drawn up to commence clearfelling the following year. The first coupe was to be about 15 hectares of the older crops in the west of the Forest including the top of Hardwick Hill. This was chosen in order to minimise adverse effects on the landscape in this and subsequent operations. But these plans were literally blown asunder on 2nd January 1976 – the windiest day ever recorded in Lincolnshire when gusts of 93 mph were recorded at Waddington. Some 160 hectares of the Forest were blown down in the storm, particularly in the lower western part of Forest. All the roads were blocked and according to Bob Millward, even recovering machinery from operational sites to begin clearing the mayhem was a lengthy task. It then took some years to fully clear all the windblown areas. Subsequent restocking was quickly instigated - in 1977 replanting of the windblown areas commenced with the commemorative planting of 32 hectares on the East Ferry road with pines and broadleaved trees. As this was the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, the area was entitled Jubilee Wood.

The Forest environment

The opening up of areas through the windblow led to an increase in the rabbit population, which required effort to bring back under control – particularly as the rigour of such operations had been lost since myxomatosis was introduced. The first grey squirrels were recorded in the Forest in 1974 and shortly afterwards Laughton Forest was regarded as the last site for red squirrel in Lincolnshire. Sadly, by the end of the decade it was impossible to find any red squirrels remaining. The occasional fallow deer was seen around the Forest.

People in the Forest

In 1971, DAR (Dave) Rayner became forester until 1977 when the Forest was amalgamated with Willingham as North Lindsey beat and the Laughton office was closed and the forester and his office were thereafter based at Willingham.

Two forest walks of 4.5 and 3.5 miles were mapped out in the north of the Forest and were used particularly by school parties. The walks were in an area adjacent to the freehold land where the FC negotiated an agreement with the estate to allow public access. This arrangement continued until the mid 1990’s.

a young stand of Corsican Pine

a young stand of Corsican Pine

The 1980’s

The Forest

Following the reestablishment of the windblown areas, normal management of the crops resumed, with about 50 ha being clearfelled each year and restocked. Standing sales predominated, with Millwards continuing to be the main contractors, producing mining timber and pulp for Bowaters, but other contractors taking timber included Go(u)ldthorpes and Walkers from South Yorkshire. Restocking was predominantly with Corsican Pine on the drier sites and Scots Pine on the wetter ones. There were difficulties with the wet sites with extensive drainage required and in places trees were planted on specially created mounds. Seedlings were now usually grown in bio-degradable paper cells which remain with the plant all the way to planting (JPP - Japanese Paper Pots and were planted using a tubular tool called a Pottiputki) – some plants supplied from Thetford and some grown in polytunnels in the Forest. Fire risk continued to be an issue, and the occasional fire occurred but the fire tower had by now gone (apparently set fire to one bonfire night!)

The Forest environment

The opening up of the areas through the windblow and clearfelling caused a boom in the number of nightjars and also allowed woodlark to colonise the Forest. During the 1980’s, the occasional roe deer was recorded in the Forest.

The Forestry Commission was established in 1919 to create a reserve of timber for a national emergency (such as the World War just experienced), but with the passing of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the objectives of the Forestry Commission included environmental aims, and where legally possible, social aims too. At Laughton, there was renewed interest in the natural vegetation of the area and Pat Delap mapped all the sites of conservation value in the Forest. For example, the area of retained scrub south of Peacocks known as the Gale holes (reputed to be below sea level) was now valued for the gale (bog myrtle) which grew there. The Nature Conservancy Council designated the main ponds as a SSSI in 1987 in recognition of the pools and the vegetation surrounding them. Regrettably by this time, some of the wildlife associated with the ponds was in decline - the breeding gull population, a real feature in earlier years, was in serious decline probably due to several droughty years which resulted in some of the main breeding areas ( e.g. Green Howe) drying out completely for several months.

People in the Forest At the start of the decade, numbers of staff peaked at 12, but was down to just 2 by 1989. In 1984, the amalgamation of Forests and Districts meant the Forest became part of the North Lincs Forest District with Hugh Stickland as the Forest District Manager and Bob Gladman as the head forester. John Hendrie as foreman looked after the Forest and apart from a wildlife ranger, there were now six men based at Laughton including the stalwarts Eric Hildred, Lol Langton and Frank Savage although at busy times the labour force was supplemented by men from Bardney, Willingham and Stapleford.

The 1990’s

The Forest

During the decade, the programme of clearfelling continued and in 1992-93 some of the wetter areas to the east of the Forest were ready for clearfelling. The standard of crop that had grown on these sites was not high, and the site conditions meant restocking would face similar difficulties to those encountered in earlier decades. Despite some sixty years of coniferous crop, the sites retained much heathland flora including relatively abundant bog pimpernel and the only site in Lincolnshire for round-leaved sundew. A survey of the area by Andy Powers revealed ca 80ha retaining the characteristics of wet heathland which were marginal for commercial forestry but which were of great value for conservation of this rare and endangered habitat in Lincolnshire. It was decided to ultimately clear this whole area and subsequently manage it as heathland. The decision was sufficiently radical to require the approval of the Regional Director in York as it predated the FC biodiversity action plan on lowland heathland by several years.

During the 1990’s some 30ha of conifer were cleared, but it quickly became clear that successful reversion to heathland would required control of the birch scrub. Mechanical clearance was possible, but on some sites proved to be less effective than manual methods using chainsaws etc. The subsequent coppice growth posed a problem together with continuing seedling growth. The Lincolnshire Trust for Nature Conservation had used sheep grazing to good effect on the adjacent Scotton Common and the FC deployed a local grazing tenant who grazed ca150 sheep on the site. This was only partly successful because the objectives of the grazier differed somewhat from the conservation objectives, and the FC subsequently deployed their own livestock, employing a contractor to manage them (peaking at 220 sheep, mainly Hebridean, and 50 Dexter cattle).

The Forest environment By the start of the decade, nightjars had occupied all suitable sites, with a survey finding a population of 29 singing males. A feature of the area was now the woodlark population, the northernmost in Britain, and Laughton Forest became a favoured site for birders wishing to see this species. According to the wildlife ranger at the time, David White, roe deer numbers continued to increase during the decade.

In 1999 ca 12 ha of Tuetoes Hills was designated as SSSI as an inland sand dune with acid dune grassland dominated by sand sedge (Carex arenaria) – a habitat rare in Lincolnshire and very restricted in distribution nationally.

People in the Forest On 1st April 1992, the Forest became part of the Sherwood and Lincs Forest District. From 1993 the forester looking after Laughton was Andy Powers, based at Sherwood, and in 1997, a Foreman (Tim Medlock) and a recreation ranger started to help with duties at Laughton. The workforce throughout the 1990’s consisted of just two staff - Lol Langton and Dean Crabtree, but they were supplemented at times by the squad from Sherwood and Ray Smith from Willingham.

a typical scene in the heart of the Forest

a typical scene in the heart of the Forest

© Copyright Jonathan Billinger and licensed for reuse

The New Millennium

The Forest

By the turn of the millennium, the Forest was clearly considered to be productive, with 37% of the total area growing Corsican Pine with a general yield class of 12, although this species has often shown a yield class of 16. 27% of the area was also productive Scots Pine ( yield class 14 recorded), 17% was broadleaf with 16% open ground, much of this with high conservation value. The age of the trees in the Forest by now reflected the management of previous decades, with older crops having been felled, and the younger age classes reflecting the programme of heathland restoration rather than restocking.

The pattern of species and the age classes of the trees in the Forest at the turn of the millennium are shown below:





Continued clearfelling of crops reaching maturity was the norm; however, the management of the Forest now clearly recognised the great importance of the area for biodiversity. All the Forests in this North Lincolnshire area were now described as Lincolnshire Coversands, a description which had been used to describe the biological value of the Natural Area. Following clearfelling, approximately half of the area was to be left unplanted and restored to heathland. Other areas, notably around Laughton Wood Corner, have been considered for continuous cover management to maintain areas of permanent woodland.

The productivity of the Forest was threatened, however, with the discovery of Red band needle blight (Dothistroma septosporum) in the Forest in 2005. This disease had spread rapidly throughout Britain and is proving to be particularly problematic for the pines - Corsican Pine is very susceptible and Scots Pine is also adversely affected. Productive yield of these species is significantly reduced, and in some situations mortality can occur. Because of the disease, there is now a moratorium on planting Corsican pine until the full impact of the disease becomes clear. With species diversification, it is likely the character of the Forest will change significantly in future decades.

The Forest environment

Reflecting the focus on heathland restoration, Laughton Forest by now supported over 50% of Lincolnshire’s total of breeding woodlarks, with good populations of nightjar and tree pipit also present. The Forest is also considered to be important for breeding crossbill, hobby and heron and is now generally celebrated for the abundance of adders throughout the Forest.

Muntjac deer continued their spread northwards and invaded the Forest in the first half of the decade, after which numbers built up and the first one was shot by wildlife ranger Steve Lawson in 2008.



People in the Forest

Tensions over public use of the Forest continued and the only area where low key informal recreation was encouraged was in the Tuetoes block – although here the SSSI designation of part of the area, the presence of a heronry and a botanically rich roadside verge all served to constrain activities.

Andy Powers continued to be responsible for Laughton Forest until his promotion to District Forester in 2006 when Tim Medlock was promoted to Forester grade. Dean Crabtree then left leaving Lol Langton as the only member of staff based at Laughton. Lol moved from a forestry house to live in Morton, and so for the first time since the establishment of the Forest there are no staff members actually living on the Forest.

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