My dreams of having a smallholding recently came true when my family took on a few acres of pasture near our home in the Yorkshire Dales. Long-term plans include hens, bee-keeping, an allotment, a couple of donkeys and maybe some pigs – but the thing I wanted to do straight away was plant some native trees and establish an orchard.
Mature sycamore, chestnut and lime already grow along the banks of the River Ribble, which runs along our boundary, and I really wanted to strengthen this existing woodland by planting some more trees here. Working in the Trees & Woodlands Team at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority meant I was aware of the grants that were available for planting small woodlands.
Our woodland was funded by the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust’s ‘Stories in Stone’ project. Phill Hibbs, one of our Trees & Woodlands Officers, offers support to farmers and landowners by guiding them through the project’s application process, drawing up a specification for the new woodland, and arranging the contractors to come in and plant.
Tree planting season is generally November to February, when the young trees are in their winter dormant phase. Our new woodland is a relatively small one, covering just under 2 acres, so a site visit with Phill, a few application forms, a contractor, and 550 trees later, our new woodland went in successfully last autumn.
New native woodland schemes in the Yorkshire Dales have a mix of species that are native to our upland environment, varying slightly depending on the surrounding habitats and species. Our small woodland has a standard mix of birch, rowan, hazel, hawthorn, cherry, blackthorn, holly, alder, whitebeam, small leaved lime and field maple. Ash would normally have been included in the mix – ash woodland being the most abundant and widespread type of woodland in the National Park. But due to the spread of Chalara Ash Dieback disease currently affecting this species, we are unable to plant it.
The benefit of planting trees goes on and on. They are beautiful and inspiring works of art by mother nature that have proven to help reduce stress and improve mental health and well-being. They provide building material, energy, and are important habitats for a range of fungi, flora and fauna. They can help combat climate change by locking up carbon, stabilising vulnerable soils and reducing flooding, and offer a source of shelter and shade.
The concept of climate change is a sobering thought, and the associated long-term threats to the rare and beautiful habitats and species here in the Yorkshire Dales are very real. Our small young woodland is just a mere drop in the ocean in terms of helping to reduce its effects and safeguarding biodiversity for the future. But it’s a small step in the right direction and, being able to give something back to wildlife and biodiversity, is a really satisfying feeling for me.
I am now enjoying peering down the tree tubes to see fresh new leaves emerge from the buds. Although a part of me feels sad that I probably won’t be around to see the woodland in its prime, I will have the reward of helping it to grow and mature over the years, knowing that my children, and hopefully their children, will be able to enjoy it long after me.
Our Trees & Woodlands Team can advise on topics such as creating new woodland, protected trees, hedgerows and tree health.
They offer FREE expert one-to-one advice on the first and third Mondays of the month at Orton (Unit 1A, Silver Yard, CA10 3RQ) and Kirkby Lonsdale (29 Main Street, LA6 2AH), respectively.