New Year, Old News?

New Year, Old News?

Greetings, loyal readers; belated seasons wishes and all the best for this New Year.

2017 has come and gone, and brought with it more than its’ fair share of upsets and tribulations. I thought I would roll in to the new year with a few noteworthy and hopefully positive items from the world of wood over the last few weeks and months.

Two new large scale commercial woodlands were given the go ahead by the Forestry Commission in November; one on Lowther Estate, near Penrith, the other at Doddington North Moor near Wooler in Northumberland. The latter made the news for all the right reasons:

Doddington North Afforestation Project

Times article: Largest forestry scheme in 30 years is given go-ahead at Doddington North Moor, Northumberland

As the article states, Doddington is the largest new productive forest planting scheme to have been approved in the last 30 years. It is hoped that it will deliver long term benefits for the environment, by improving habitats and producing sustainable building materials, as well as generating and sustaining jobs in the local area while the forest is planted, fenced, maintained, thinned, and finally harvested and converted into timber or firewood.

Planned planting design. Photo:

Down in the Forest of Dean, my old patch, the local team have just been given the go ahead to proceed with a trial release of beavers to assess potential flood alleviation benefits arising from their damming activities. There has been increased interest in recent years in ‘natural flood management’ (NFM), replicating natural processes (usually in the upper reaches of a catchment) in order to reduce flooding risks further downstream. Beavers have been highlighted as a species with high potential for reducing flood risk and improving water quality through their natural dam building activities, slowing the flow and reducing sediment load. The study is intended to demonstrate and quantify these effects on a relatively small water course in the Forest of Dean which has previously been known to flood severely.

BBC: Beavers will return to the Forest of Dean for first time in 400 years

DEFRA: Environment Secretary backs release of Beavers in Forest of Dean

A hungry beaver. Picture courtesy BBC Radio Gloucester

For a little while it looked like the scheme wasn’t going to be given the go ahead, having been put on hold indefinitely by DEFRA. However, it seems that the decision has been made that the ecological benefits from re-introduction and the beavers’ potential as a future natural flood alleviation measure outweigh any risk.

Just before Christmas Judi Dench presented a programme about the many wonders of trees in an artistically personalised / semi-scientific approach to demonstrating why these are organisms worthy of our time and attention.

Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees on BBC iPlayer

The Guardian: My Passion for Trees review

Early in the New Year, on the 8th of Jan, is a new programme called The Forest, which will hopefully cover another of managing trees and woodland, from a more commercial perspective, and may give an interesting insight into how productive forests in the uplands are managed and the many factors taken into consideration. Some advance clips can be viewed below.

BBC One: The Forest

I hope to be uploading more posts over the next few weeks. Let’s hope 2018 is a bit more of a mellow year with even more good news we can enjoy!


Beauty in Imperfection

Beauty in Imperfection

I’ve recently started a new job, back in the North East of England. Last week I was lucky enough to visit a nature reserve in Gosforth Park, Newcastle upon Tyne, which I had no prior knowledge of, despite having lived in the North East for some 20-odd years.
The site is managed by the Natural History Society of Northumbria, on a piece of land owned by and adjacent to Gosforth Race Course. The access to the reserve is unassuming, off an old lay-by next to the A189:
My initial impression was that of an ancient, semi-natural woodland, though I soon found out that the wood had been planted for less than one hundred years. As soon as you walk into the wood, you are struck by a sense of naturalness and wildness, although when you look closely, you can still see traces of mounds from plough furrows in the ground. In the middle of the manicured city, it is a refreshing change. The reserve is managed entirely with conservation objectives in mind, with the emphasis on enhancing habitats for birds and invertebrates.
A number of students from Newcastle University and other institutions have carried out studies on various aspects of the wood over the years. There are currently plans to modify drainage off the site, to allow it to store more water during flood events due to the run off from neighbouring housing developments. There is already some wetland on the site, and this transition will increase the amount of wet woodland present (alder, birch, willows) at the expense of some of the more dominant oaks and beech.


I realised I was looking at the wood to start with, very much from a Foresters’ viewpoint. We tend to see what resource is there, and what will be the best way to get at it (in a sustainable and environmentally sensitive way). However, in talking to the people responsible for managing it, who have done some good work in transforming some of the areas that were planted up with spruce back in the 1970’s, I reminded myself that not everywhere needs to be intensively managed for timber, especially in the middle of the city where such oases are rare. I do believe that we should make best use of the resources that we have, especially if they arise from management which is for the best of the wood or the habitat as a whole, but we also need wild places.
Area where spruce has been removed in a ‘coupe’ to make room for planting of native broadleaves in shelters.