Woodland restored to former glory

Geoff Lomas, Yorkshire Water's recreation and catchment manager, plants native trees including oak and rowan.
Geoff Lomas, Yorkshire Water's recreation and catchment manager, plants native trees including oak and rowan.

Work to restore ancient woodland is being carried out near Harrogate as part of a major poject to conserve and enhance Yorkshire’s native habitats and wildlife.

The ambitious scheme, which began in 2011, has seen the removal of foreign trees and invasive weeds, many of which were planted in the 20th century, from 10 sites across the region, including High Boar Hole and High Wood in Timble.

Thousands of native trees, such as oak, hazel, rowan, alder and holly, have also been re-introduced to the historic woodlands, thanks to a partnership between Yorkshire Water, the Forestry Commission and Natural England.

Many of the habitats and wildlife found in these woodlands are in decline due to an increasing presence of non-native trees, such as sycamore, larch and beech, and harmful invasive weed species, including rhododendron, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam.

The 14-year project has now reached its second phase, with 63,000 native trees expected to be planted before 2020, including more in Harrogate.

At High Boar Hole, the felling of foreign trees, along with restocking of native trees has established positive restoration measures.

At the 14-acre High Wood in Timble, restoration has been on a relatively small-scale, but the selective felling and coppicing and localised restocking has helped improve the structural attributes of the woodland.

Geoff Lomas, recreation and catchment manager at Yorkshire Water, said: “We have allocated over £1m to invest over the next five years to manage these woodlands. “This will help to create a more resilient woodland that restores original features.

“We want to ensure that these rare and historic woodlands support a diverse range of plants, animals and insects. To achieve this we must take action to conserve and re-establish a predominantly native tree population.

“Currently, we are undertaking ecological assessments of these sites which will inform the best management approach.”

Ancient woodlands are defined as any area which has been under continuous tree cover since at least the 1600s.