A Wood Pasture Tool

By Tom Hulton-Harrop

A problem regularly faced by farmers, land managers and conservationists is the question of where to plant trees.

While it’s a good idea to follow the adage of planting the right tree in the right place, determining the exact position of each tree can be challenging. What options are there for deciding the configuration or patterns the trees should be planted in?

There are situations where a regular, repeating layout is required and advantageous to the task at hand (e.g. timber plantations) but there are cases where a more scattered and natural layout is preferable (e.g. a sparsely wooded area). Attempting this manually is incredibly difficult as it’s all too easy to inadvertently create patterns unintentionally. This is where the Wood Pasture Tool comes in, a simple application we built to randomly generate a series of points suitable for tree planting.

The application

The concept for this project grew out of an idea from Lizzie Hulton-Harrop (my sister) who was interested in creating wood pasture at Pollardine. The initial plan was to create a tool that would generate a number of points within a field parcel where you could specify the minimum distance from the field boundary (to avoid the tool suggesting planting trees too close to the fence line) and a minimum distance between each tree (to control the density). Once these two parameters had been set, the tool would randomly generate points within that field parcel that you could then export to a GPS device to show where to plant in the field.

We’re at the stage now where we have a proof-of-concept application that does just this. In this article we’ll walk through what the tool can do and how to use it.

When first opening the application you are presented with this view.

Wood Pasture Tool 1

You’ll notice the central table is empty as we haven’t imported any data yet. To get some useful information out of the tool we need to import a GEOJson file of a holding from the Land App website. This file contains boundary information for all fields (as well as other points of interest such as buildings, roads and streams) based on information submitted to the Rural Payments Agency for the Basic Payment Scheme. The Wood Pasture Tool will identify each element as a row in the table and allow the user to toggle on or off by clicking on it.

Wood Pasture Tool 2
Imported data from The Land App
Wood Pasture Tool 3
Displaying an individual field that’s been selected
It’s possible to filter based on any column in the table using the search box at the top
Wood Pasture Tool 4
Filtering based on Parcel ID
Once a particular field has been selected it’s then possible to click ‘Regenerate’ to perform an initial random point distribution.
Wood Pasture Tool 5
Clicking ‘Regenerate’ multiple times will then produce a new random arrangement meeting the same criteria as before (a field edge and minimum separation of 15 metres). To adjust the field edge or minimum separation simply adjust the sliders or ctrl+click to enter an exact value (Note: Field edge will update immediately but ‘Regenerate’ must be pressed after changing the minimum separation to see the updated placement).
Wood Pasture Tool 6
It’s possible to use the arrows next to ‘Regenerate’ to move back and forward between generations. If manual adjustments would like to be made, it’s possible to click and drag a point to adjust its placement. Double-clicking empty space will insert a new point and double-clicking an existing point will remove it. Hovering over a point will also show the current position in latitude/longitude.
Wood Pasture Tool 7
Once you’re happy with the layout, you can then export the tree positions to either Google Maps or Garmin (Export to Json is available to record the current state of the application that can be imported again later – this is useful for creating backups or saving experiments).

Clicking Export to Google Maps will prompt for a .csv file to be named and created. This can then be imported into Google My Maps.

Wood Pasture Tool 8
This is useful to verify the trees are where we expect them to be. It’s possible to tell from the aerial view that this matches the outline from the application.

To verify the distance between each tree it’s possible to draw lines connecting points in Google My Maps and check the distance is no less than the minimum threshold set.

Wood Pasture Tool 9
See distance here is 28 metres, no more than the 25 metres set.

Once you’re happy with the tree positions you can then export to Garmin which will produce a .gpx file. Simply connect your Garmin device to your computer and copy the file across. This will then list the points in a new layer you can easily toggle on or off.

Trees on Garmin device
Returning to the application, if you want to start over just hit ‘Reset’ which will clear all changes made so far. If you want to make any further adjustments or have more control when editing points you can use the mouse wheel to zoom in and the middle mouse wheel to pan to view the tree layout in more detail.
Wood Pasture Tool 10
We hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to the Wood Pasture Tool. There’s still a lot of functionality we’d like to add (specifying sub-sections of fields would be one useful feature we’re currently lacking) but for a proof of concept, we’re happy with the results and are looking to use the output from the tool in an upcoming project in 2023.

If you have any questions about the Wood Pasture Tool please do get in touch and if you’d like to try it out yourself we’d be happy to share this early version with you and get feedback on what you’d like to see added in future.