Three Yorkshire Woods Vying For Top Spot
Three newly-created woods in Yorkshire are in the running to be named the UK's best.
The Woodland Trust has shortlisted sites near York and Leeds in its quest to find the best wood created under its MOREwoods scheme.
Freya's Spinney was planted by Monica Brook, of Yeadon, in her three-acre field near Guiseley in November 2011 following the death of her horse. She planted 1,200 trees over 1.2 hectares and has watched the saplings grow, masses of wildflowers appear and a wide range of wildlife move in.
Friends and family have helped Monica plant hedges, tend the trees and rake up the mown grass in the rides she has created. The hay has been piled up and has created new habitats. In addition, she has planted hundreds of snowdrops, daffodils and English bluebells. A pond is the next project.
"The biggest thrill for me was the first spring after the planting when shoots began to appear. How quickly they sprang into life, as did the field. It was as though it had been set free from the toil of feeding sheep and cattle.
Suddenly it was a mass of flowers.
"I have seen kestrels hovering and capturing prey, red kites quartering the area and sparrow hawks lurking ready to pounce. Last summer a couple of pheasant chicks were reared by a brave mum who escaped the mower which passed over her. Skylarks sing overhead and swallows swoop low.
Occasionally I see a hare hurtle across the field. Last year a friend installed a bee hive and we have had the first honey from it. I have been in touch with a hedgehog rescue group and I am hoping to re home some hedgehogs this summer.
"Freya's Spinney is my legacy. I was here and in a small way I hope I have made a difference. I had doubts about whether I could do it but with the help of the Woodland Trust, it became possible. To quote Keats, 'A thing of beauty is a joy forever.' and Freya's Spinney is that joy for me."
Christopher and Helen Neave are creating a nature reserve on 24 acres of rough pasture they acquired on the banks of the River Nidd at Kirk Hammerton, near York.
They signed up to MOREwoods and planted 3,800 Woodland Trust trees over three hectares in 2011/12. They completed their objective of planting 18,000 native trees and shrubs throughout the site later that year, to create a variety of wildlife habitats. The couple also undertook a 'forest-of-flowers' initiative, promising years of colour before the tree canopy eventually closes over. Other areas have been left as open meadow and they have begun digging ponds for wetland habitats.
A public footpath runs around the perimeter of the land but Christopher and Helen have encouraged visitors to explore by adding other paths through the planted areas.
"The results have been stunning. In just five short years the land has been transformed. In the wetter and very fertile areas the trees have grown exceptionally well, with many over 20 feet tall. Even in the drier ground the trees have taken well, although with less growth. There are dense and dark forested areas already and other parts that have dappled shade on the woodland floor.
"Now we are coming into the summer months the varied insect life is showing itself, with the sights and sounds of bees, moth, butterfly and dragonfly. Bird life is abundant. Last autumn I saw countless nests in the young trees and flocks of finches feeding on the flower and grass seeds. The more iconic bird species have arrived as well, including Red Kite, Barn Owl and Kingfisher. Deer are now resident, as well as Hare and Fox. We hope and expect our wetland areas will attract newts, as well as increase the numbers of frogs and toads. We are putting in bat boxes as well."
Zoe Billings planted just over 1,000 trees on a hectare of land in Nether Poppleton near York last year. She was inspired to create her new woodland by a large oak and her competition entry took the form of a poem, an extract of which is reproduced below.
"To able to walk in the woods, to look up and spot a sleepy owl, that is a gift that money cannot buy. Woods are such a mindful place in an increasingly busy world, simply to stand still and breathe, we stand to gain just as much as the wildlife from these places, if only we choose to open our eyes."
The winner, who will receive a professional photoshoot in their wood and a wooden bench or sculpture to the value of £500, will be decided by BBC Countryfile Diaries presenter Paul Martin, Woodland Trust Chief Executive Beccy Speight and Director of Woodland Creation John Tucker and announced in July.
Since it started in 2010, MOREwoods has seen the creation of more than 1,500 hectares of woodland and the planting of more than two million trees across the UK.
Anyone who wishes to plant a minimum half a hectare of their land (1.25 acres) can sign up to MOREwoods. The Woodland Trust offers expert advice and guidance on creating native woodland and can provide the best species mix for each site. The Trust will also contribute up to 60 per cent of the set up costs and for larger sites of a hectare or more can arrange to plant the trees as well.
MOREwoods is supported by Dorset Cereals. As well as helping to create woodland across the UK, bringing huge benefits to people and wildlife, the company has also planted 1,000 trees close to its headquarters in Poundbury, Dorset, with 100 of its staff.
Commercial gas supplier CNG also supports the MOREwoods project. It has funded trees on the land of a North Yorkshire landowner which commemorated the lives of those who lived and served in the First World War from the area. CNG also funds the Woodland Trust's ancient woodland restoration.
Three Yorkshire Woods Vying For Top Spot, 29th June 2017, 20:31 PM