Jan 24 2019

Northern Forest …the story so far

We’ve finally got the contract with Defra signed, which took a considerable amount of work by the team led by Darren Moorcroft Director of Estate & Outreach and Simon Mageean Programme Director-Northern Forest.


Through this we’ve secured £5.7m Defra funding to kick start the Northern Forest programme. The programme has just appointed a Project Manager – Nick Sellwood  (thanks to additional funding from the Oglesby Charitable Trust).


Our Vision (Link: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/about-us/woodland-creation/the-northern-forest-our-vision/ )with with The Community Forest Trust,  is to create an exciting new Northern Forest that will comprise of over 50 million trees over 25 years and will stretch from Liverpool across to Hull with the M62 as its spine.


The very first trees planted with Defra Northern Forest funding  were by Forestry Minister David Rutley MP, National Tree Champion Sir William Worsley, local councillors and schoolchildren, at Saint Andrew’s CofE Primary School in Bury, Lancashire, on 30 November (Saint Andrew’s Day) 2018.


Since the first of the Northern Forest trees went in the ground last March, the Smithills team have been hard at working starting to replace some of the trees sadly affected by the moorland fires on Winter Hill and surrounding moorland this summer. The team are working with contractors  and schools / volunteers to plant another 28,0000 trees this  winter, including a community tree planting day on the 9th March.  You can hear  Russ Hedley  talking about this  on BBC Radio 4’s Open Country – Moorlands on the Mend 


Dough Edmondson – Outreach Adviser, is working with partners in the clough valleys of the Pennines. This autumn and winter the aim is to plant around 70ha of new woodlands at Ogden and Gorpley. The planting will be a partnership between the Trust, The White Rose Forest and Yorkshire Water whose land we are leasing to plant on.  The planted woodland will then be cared for and maintained by the National Trust.


The long term vision for these woodlands is to create a mosaic of interconnected and more resilient habitats that will bring significant added value to the existing area. We are using woodland creation as a catalyst for landscape change in an area where biodiversity is under threat and there are significant opportunities to highlight the value that trees can play in “ecosystem services” in particular carbon sequestration, slowing the flow of streams that have flooded the valley bottoms and retaining the thin soils for the benefit oif farming…a typical upland landscape in the Pennines.


Planting in the 2019 season will mostly be delivered through our MOREwoods scheme. Hannah Marshall is now also working as Outreach Adviser in the Northern Forest, focussing on these schemes, bringing her experience from Cumbria into the larger Northern Forest landscape.  We are working with the woodland creation central team to define an enhanced offer for MOREwoods to incentivise landowners to plant – we will be promoting this from spring this year for delivery in 2019/20. As a Northern Forest partnership we aim to plant 800,000 trees through this “Core Delivery” work stream over the next 4 years with Defra supporting us to the tune of £3.1m.


We also have secure over £2m to test more innovative approaches to funding woodland creation in the Northern Forest. Defra have supported the establishment of a “Partnership Innovation Fund” which we plan to use to match fund new planting schemes that fall out of the normal Countryside Stewardship and Woodland Carbon Fund routes….we are working closely with partners to scope opportunities and to engage with landowners in the development of the mechanisms for this fund.


Our fundraising teams have been very busy with some targeted appeals, grant funding and events including: –

The 2018 national appeal to our members and supporters raised £440,000.


The Heritage Lottery Fund has recently awarded us a grant of £41,900 to help kick start the project.  This will enable the partnership to undertake a review of the existing governance across the four Community Forests.  As a result, the partnership will develop robust governance structures which will serve to underpin the success of the Northern Forest project in the long-term.


Meeting the White Rose Forest funders group to discuss how we work together and make the most of opportunities to raise funds within the Leeds city region and beyond.


In the autumn last year we took the Northern forest to the Labour Party conference meeting key leaders and local authority representatives. Beccy Speight opened the event, placing the Northern Forest in the context of the Northern Powerhouse agenda. The Labour mayors of the Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester, Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham, pledged their support at the event  (More info on this in the Blog)https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2018/10/northern-forest-conference/   by Richard O’Callaghan,  Regional External Affairs Officer – North).  The party conference was followed by a Reception for Yorkshire councillors, MPs and other stakeholders in October, kindly hosted by Betty and Taylor’s at Betty’s Tearoom in Harrogate, with over 80 delegates attending. Supportive speeches by Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones; Mayor of South Yorkshire Dan Jarvis MP; Beccy Speight and Jonathan Wild, former CEO of Betty and Taylor’s.  The team are looking to host another event in Greater Manchester this Spring, a chance to engage / influence Councillors and  MPs, as well  supporters / prospects and corporates.


Finally, our  communications teams have been working with  the Community Forest partners and design agency Creative Concern (Link: https://creativeconcern.com/)  to create a great range of new materials around the Northern Forest including a manifesto, case studies,  video  (Embed links below to PDF’s / Video) and a new Northern Forest website currently in development.


Paul Bunton- Engagement & Communiication Officer, North

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