A new forest is to be planted in Northumberland which conservationists hope will provide a welcome boost to the red squirrel population.
More than 600,000 trees will be planted at Doddington North Moor, near Wooler, over the next two years. The 350-hectare (860-acre) forest will be the largest of its kind planted in England for more than 30 years. It is hoped the project will inspire further large-scale tree planting schemes and demonstrate the value in woodland creation.
Therese Coffey, the Environment Minister, said: “Our forests and woodlands are some of our most vital and cherished natural assets, and planting more trees is at the heart of our ambition to protect the environment for future generations.
“Doddington North Moor will make a significant contribution to our drive to plant 11 million trees across the nation and is a fantastic example of the kind of tree-planting schemes we want to see more of.”
The area is in a designated red squirrel buffer zone in which experts will help protect the threatened species from approaching grey squirrels. There are estimated to be only 140,000 red squirrels left in Britain, compared to more than 2.5 million greys, and campaigners have warned their future is increasingly uncertain. The forest will also store 120,000 tonnes of carbon, help manage flood risk and boost timber industry businesses and jobs.
Spanning the equivalent of 650 football pitches, it will include a mixture of broadleaf and conifers consisting mainly of spruce, birch, pine and oak. The scheme was developed with the help of Government funding and given the green light by the Forestry Commission.
“There needs to be a major uplift in the planting of new woodlands in England, and hopefully us starting to plant trees at Doddington and the lessons learnt from the application process can unlock interest from further potential applicants.”
Planting of the new forest is expected to begin in March and take place over the next two to three years.