11/12/2009
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New woods to take root in the northeast

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The Forestry Commission has pledged £636,000 to create 257 hectares (642 acres) of new woodland in northeast England this year — and more cash is on offer to support other valuable planting schemes. Over 40% of the new planting will occur in the Northumberland National Park as part of a drive to reverse centuries of deforestation and overgrazing by creating new native woods. The work will see leafy habitats restored to many bare valleys and ghylls with species like Alder, Oak and Rowan. About 63 hectares (157 acre) will also target habitat creation for the endangered Black Grouse.

Black Grouse
Black Grouse, undisclosed site, Northumberland (Photo: Margaret Holland)

The money has been earmarked under the latest round of the Woodland Creation Grant scheme, which aims to back projects which produce maximum gains for wildlife, recreation, land reclamation and landscape enhancement.

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Colin Grayson, Grants and Regulation Manager with the Forestry Commission, said: "We've put a further £100,000 into the kitty to support planting this winter or next autumn. So if you have a good idea which will help the environment we might be able to give you a grant. Over the past few years our support has made a tremendous difference, allowing land managers to create woodlands on people's doorsteps, boost wildlife habitats and turn derelict areas into verdant beauty spots. The new woodland will also help combat climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide as the trees grow."

One landowner branching out is 61-year-old John Wilson of Whitelee Farm, who runs a 40-hectare (100-acre) sheep farm together with holiday cottages near Otterburn, Northumberland. He's been offered a grant worth nearly £12,000 over the next five years to create a 3.4-hectare (8.5-acre) wood to lure Black Grouse back to his land.

"The farm was pretty much a tree-less landscape until a few years ago when we planted a small 3.5-hectare [8.7-acre] wood," said the former Newcastle University photographer, who bought the remote homestead 11 years ago. "Since then bird life has expanded from a few species to over 60, with sheep also enjoying better protection from the elements. We used to have a Black Grouse lek on the farm, but we've seen no sign of the bird in recent times. The new wood will be planted with widely spaced trees to offer just the right kind of habitat."

Elsewhere, £184,000 will help pay for the creation of 50 hectares (125 acre) of new community woodland at the Woodland-Trust-owned Low Burn Hall, near Durham. Grants totalling £70,000 have also been offered for 28 hectares (70 acres) of new planting in the Tees Valley and south Durham.

Written by: Forestry Commission