An ancient woodland in near Hexham, Northumberland, is going to be restored now that the Forestry Commission pledged £50,000 to help a back-to-nature transformation.
More than 20 hectares of woodland, much if it dating back hundreds of years, and running along a beautiful stretch of the North Tyne River at 13th century Haughton Castle, close to the delightful market town of Hexham, Northumberland, is being worked for the time in at least 30 years.
The grant has paid for forest tracks to be built allowing conifers planted in the 20th century to be removed as part of a long term plan to create a native broadleaf woodland brimming with wildlife.
A survey five years ago showed that 80% of Northumberland’s ancient woods were in a poor condition causing alarm amongst forest chiefs.
Major threats included under-management, overgrazing and planting with conifers in the 20th century, when the push was on to bolster timber reserves drained by two world wars.
Since then the Forestry Commission has worked with landowners to tackle the situation. Grants totalling nearly £200,000 have been allocated to eight schemes in Northumberland and the North Pennines AONB to reverse the decline in ancient woods.
Ian Everard from the Forestry Commission explained: “A big reason why so many ancient woods have fallen into neglect is because they are often inaccessible. This grant has allowed nearly one kilometre of tracks to be built so harvesting machinery can be used. The project has been made even more viable because some of the timber extracted will be used for woodfuel – a lean and eco-friendly energy source. With demand soaring, woodfuel prices have risen making restoration projects like this one even more financially do-able.”
The grant is the first awarded by the Forestry Commission in the North East under an initiative to improve access to woods and boost production of timber and woodfuel.
With at least 50% of private woodlands regionally under-managed there is massive scope to expand the timber and woodfuel supply and support the rural economy, whilst improving wildlife habitats.
Anthony Braithwaite, owner of Haughton Castle, added: “The woodland has lain untouched for the better part of three decades because of the difficult terrain and badly needs some tender loving care. Our trees are a wonderful resource in Northumberland, which we need to do more to tap. Well managed woods are important for biodiversity, which I am passionate about, and a source of a renewable raw material and energy source.”
The Forestry Commission has awarded a further £15,000 to support ancient woodland restoration on the estate.
For more information on Forestry Commission grants call 01669 621591, or visit www.forestry.gov.uk/