Sir William Worsley, DEFRA appointed Tree Champion, recently visited the new Mirkpot Wood near Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Accompanied by Robert Smedley, woodland owner, and David Robson, EGGER forest manager, Sir William planted a tree to mark the completion of the work to create a new 40-hectare productive woodland.
Sir William said: “I am pleased to see this woodland established in a part of England that has seen very little afforestation over the last three decades. The Government recognises that we need to be planting more trees and I have been appointed to champion woodland creation."
“The vision of the owner, the hard work of EGGER and their contractors, supported by Forestry Commission grants has turned Mirkpot Wood into reality. We need many more like it.”
Mirkpot is a productive woodland, planted to the Government’s UK Forestry Standard of sustainable forestry. It contains a range of species, including native broadleaves, plus designed open ground, but the spruce component is the economic driver.
David Robson, explained: “Gaining planting approval took quite a bit of time and effort. However, with a payment of some £6,000 from the Forestry Commission for the Woodland Creation Planning Grant we were able to de-risk this process. Attractive planting grants from the Forestry Commission mean that all planting costs are covered. In addition, there is a 10-year annual maintenance payment, and the owner can continue to claim the Basic Payment Scheme.”
Mirkpot Wood offers home for red squirrels
With red squirrels being present in the area, the expansion of conifer woods at Mirkpot will assist them. Small seeded conifers are also less appealing to non-native grey squirrels, thus further helping the reds in one of their last strongholds in England.
David Robson further commented: “Forest economics are improving with timber prices at record highs. Increasingly farmers are seeing forestry as a form of strategic diversification and at present we are looking at a number of schemes on behalf of farmers."
EGGER Forestry expects to see the first timber income from thinnings in about 20 years. Felling could start in little more than 30 years’ time. All felled areas will be replanted, so the squirrels will always have a suitable habitat.
Government plan and climate committee call for more woodlands
The Government’s 25-year Environment Plan identified the need for more tree planting for a variety of reasons, including combating climate change via carbon sequestration. The appointment of the Tree Champion was recommended in this plan.
In addition, the Government’s Climate Change Committee also sets out the case for more woodlands across the UK. These new targets of some 7-10,000ha of new planting per year in England are in stark contrast to recent planting levels of 1-2,000ha.
David Robson stated: “For the first time in many years I feel forestry has a good tailwind. Land owners are really starting to see the benefits of planting and I hope we see a lot more forestry in the near future.”