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In November 2017, The Forestry Commission approved tree planting at Doddington North Moor in Northumberland, England’s largest woodland planting scheme for 30 years.

Through their business, Pennine Forestry, Andy Howard and Sir Edward Milbank, who owns the Barningham Estate near Barnard Castle, embarked on a major project to transform the bulk of a 354 ha hill farm in Northumberland called Doddington North into a forest. Prior to planting, half the land was improved pasture for grazing, the other half upland heath, which was over run with bracken and rhododendron

Planting started in March last year, and by the summer of 2018, the team had already planted 25ha, with further plans to plant 125ha in each of the next two seasons, with a total of close to 700,000 trees set to be planted. In April this year, 283,000 trees had already been planted, with another 394,000 trees to be planted next season. The project will require around 16,000 worker days to complete the planting of trees at Doddington North.

The forest, which will span the equivalent of over 650 football fields, will help to enhance populations of the iconic red squirrel, while storing over 93,000 tonnes of carbon and helping to manage flood risk in the area. With the forestry and timber processing industry a major employer in the region, the project is also set to bring a boost to local businesses and will generate a number of new jobs.

A total of 268 hectares will be planted, with 42 per cent of the site given over to productive conifer trees such as Sitka spruce, with 20% devoted to native broadleaves and 13% to a mix of Scots pine and native broadleaf.

Of the remaining 25%, 10% will be left as open ground and 15% as managed priority habitats. This will include protecting and restoring the best areas of heath, peat mires and wet woodland. The area is within the Kyloe buffer zone for red squirrels and the forest will provide new habitat for this rare species.

A 5km access track, which links to existing rights of way, is being built this spring and should be ready for the AGM. This will create 10km of paths and tracks to create access for walkers, mountain bikers, horse riders, forest education and climbers at a bouldering area on the site.

Andy Howard headed the negotiations with the Forestry Commission, Natural England and the Environment Agency to help shape this important project as a national exemplar of excellence.

This will no doubt stimulate more large scale woodland creation projects that will deliver the government’s and the forestry sector’s ambitions to plant more trees across the country

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