Reforesting the UK: 'Trees are the ultimate long-term project'

“This whole area wants to be a wood,” says Edward Milbank, sweeping his arm across the former hill farm in Northumberland.Small saplings of birch have invaded the cleared ground, but many more trees are being pushed into the soil by hand.

The bracken and rhododendron that had overrun the hillside took heavy machinery three months to rip out.“When you disturb the soil, it becomes a wood very quickly,” says Milbank.

“But the Forestry Commission forced us to put in Scots pine as well.The entire area could be birch without spending a penny, but you have to be seen to be doing something to justify the [planting grants].”

This former sheep and cattle farm, Doddington North, is being converted into England’s largest private new woodland in 30 years, with 680,000 trees being planted over the 350 hectares.Moving down the hill, Milbank points and says:“The reason we were able to raise the investment is that – sitka spruce.”

The commercial timber tree will occupy 40% of the land, with native broadleaf trees such as birch, alder, aspen and oak on about a third and the rest managed as open grassland.Milbank, whose company Pennine Forestry is running the project, hopes it will encourage more wildlife, such as the red squirrels that live in an adjoining wood, and the kestrels that already fly overhead searching for the shrews that dart between tussocks.

Read More At The Guardian

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