Local dairy farmer John Doherty is working with the Woodland Trust Northern Ireland and the Loughs Agency, to create an area of wet woodland along the River Faughan. The planting of 2000 trees and creation of ponds within the land will work to improve water quality and provide new havens for wildlife.

The opportunity came about after Mr Doherty had previously worked with the Woodland Trust Northern Ireland and the Loughs Agency in creating riparian (riverside) buffer strips along both sides of the River Faughan Special Area of Conservation (SAC) in November 2019. That project involved a partnership between the landowner, the Woodland Trust Northern Ireland, Loughs Agency and Northern Ireland Water. Fencing was installed back from the riverbank, with tree planting and stiles erected for access.

Two existing field drains carry nutrients and sediment during flood events from the land directly into the River Faughan. Measures will be put in place to improve water quality and create a wet woodland to improve the local biodiversity value of the site. The current project is aimed at improving water quality by buffering sediment and nutrients originating from the two ditches.

The drains have now been diverted into a section of field (4 acres) via a series of leaky dams and then into newly created ponds. Tree roots help filter the water and slow the flow in times of flood ensuring that when the ponds are full the woodland provides a further buffer with the River Faughan. This technique was deployed by Loughs Agency and the Woodland Trust Northern Ireland within woodland at Killaloo, with positive results.

Dave Scott, project manager with the Woodland Trust said:

“Areas of wet woodland are one of the most dynamic habitats in the UK and Ireland and are important for a range of priority species, including otter, nesting birds, insects, bats and amphibians. With Northern Ireland being one of the least wooded countries in Europe (8% tree cover) any increase in new woodland is welcomed, especially when it provides local nature based solutions for farming businesses and on a wider scale combat climate change through carbon storage.”

Lionel Knobbs with the Loughs Agency said:

“The natural filtration of nutrients and sediments means that water quality is improved for fish and their spawning requirements. As well as the improvements to water quality and the enhancement of wildlife habitat, such woodlands reduce water treatment costs, reduce flood risk and provide increased flood storage, and assist in natural river restoration.”

It is hoped that this project will provide a good opportunity for learning how more of these collaborative projects might be delivered in the future in providing havens for wildlife, improving water quality and allowing farmers and landowners to actively engage in connecting biodiversity and business gains.

It is hoped that this nature based solution to protecting rivers from potential pollution, keeping water on the farm in times of drought and a future timber resource in the form of native trees will be the exemplar for other landowners and farmers who may be interested in implementing similar projects. The partnership is keen to hear from farmers and landowners in the Faughan area to deliver more of these collaborative projects.

To find out more contact Dave Scott by email davescott@woodlandtrust.org.uk or phone 07917895070.

Lionel Knobbs by email lionel.knobbs@loughs-agency.org or phone 07736374131

Notes to editors

For media enquiries contact Glynis Watt at the Woodland Trust on 0792 0245545 or via email at glyniswatt@woodlandtrust.org.uk

The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters.

The Trust has three key aims:  

  1. to protect ancient woodland, which is rare, unique and irreplaceable
  2. to restore damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life
  3. to plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.

Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering over 29,000 hectares. Access to its woods is free. Further news can be found at www.woodlandtrust.org.uk