The Woodland Trust Northern Ireland welcomed the Minister for the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), Edwin Poots MLA on a visit to Aughrim Hill and Fofanny in County Down. In 2020 the conservation charity created the single largest native woodland stretching to 60 hectares in Northern Ireland at Aughrim Hill.

The Woodland Trust is the UK’s leading woodland conservation charity and aims to protect and restore ancient woodland, and create new woodland for nature, people and the climate. Northern Ireland is one of the least wooded regions in Europe, with just 8% of woodland cover compared with the European average of 37%

In March 2020, Minister Poots, launched the ‘Forests for our Future programme’ to help tackle climate change, pledging to plant 18 million trees (9,000 hectares) over the next 10 years to store carbon and increase Northern Ireland’s woodland cover.

Aughrim Hill was funded by the Forest Expansion Scheme and is a prime example of how the Woodland Trust can work flexibly to create woodlands for landowners. Formerly a bare hill, Aughrim Hill is now a young woodland planted by hand with Scots pine, birch and oak.

Woodland Trust Northern Ireland’s director, Ian McCurley said:

“To be able to create woodlands as large as Aughrim means more for nature, more for climate change and more for people. We need to rapidly increase tree cover to help reach net zero carbon emissions and tackle the declines in wildlife. In Northern Ireland, we need to reach a rate of planting 2,000 hectares a year by 2025 in order to achieve our goals by 2030.

“We need to start creating woodland on a landscape scale in order to reach our targets.”

Edwin Poots MLA, said:

“The woodland at Aughrim and proposed woodland at Fofanny are excellent Woodland Trust projects, and a great example of how working in partnership with DAERA’s Forest Service, private and public landowners can bring forward land for planting to help us achieve the aims of the Forests for our Future programme.

“I am leading the development of the Executive’s Green Growth strategy which these Woodland Trust initiatives support by capturing carbon, improving the landscape and environment and moving us towards a net-zero carbon economy.”

The Woodland Trust also welcomed Minister Poots to Fofanny, a six hectare ‘Forest of the Future’, where he met delegates from NI Water, who have been working in partnership with the Woodland Trust Northern Ireland for over ten years. NI Water is the second biggest landowner in Northern Ireland and the Woodland Trust works with them to create woodland on their estate. Fofanny is set to be the first of many publicly owned sites to be planted over the next 10 years.

NI Water’s director of business services, Alistair Jinks said:

“Using NI Water land to plant trees offsets the carbon emissions from NI Water’s electricity consumption. Trees being planted near our rivers and streams helps reduce the effect of climate change by capturing carbon and slowing river flow. Tree roots also act as a natural water filter.

“The first phase of tree-planting will begin next month and continue until March 2021, with approximately 40,000 trees being planted at NI Water sites at Dunore in County Antrim and Fofanny in County Down for which we have applied for grant support from DAERA’s Forest Expansion Scheme. There are plans in place for a further 247,000 trees to be planted in Phase 2, subject to a further application next year and funding approval.”

Ian McCurley concluded:

“We at the Woodland Trust have a crucial role to play and so does everyone. To increase tree cover in Northern Ireland, we need to pursue a mix of approaches, at a variety of scales appropriate to the landscape. These must include expanding native woodland, sustainable commercial plantations, agroforestry, urban trees, hedges and individual countryside trees. Trees will need to be planted on an unprecedented scale, but the right trees in the right places are needed.”

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Notes to editors

For media enquiries contact Glynis Watt at the Woodland Trust on 0792 0245545 or via email at

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