Irreplaceable ancient woods and trees across England are to benefit from a programme of restoration thanks to a cash boost from the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund announced today (10 December).

The Woodland Trust and National Trust have been awarded £3.86 million to undertake vital ancient woodland restoration work on 60 sites (638 hectares) across their respective estates, whilst bringing many ancient and veteran trees into active management.

The project will not only help to tackle the climate and nature emergencies but also boost the economy by creating and retaining jobs within the forestry sector, stimulating demand in the sector and supporting longer term sustainable growth as well as inspiring foresters of the future.

Most of England’s ancient woodland has been lost and now represents only c2.7% (364,200ha) of England’s landmass. Around half of what remains is in need of urgent restoration management, having been planted with non-native trees (often shade bearing non-native conifers) or invaded by other spreading non-native plants such as rhododendron.

Ancient trees and woods are degrading rapidly, losing remnant features such as valuable ground flora each year.

Restoration work will result in the development of better high-quality ancient trees and woods that can provide refuges for dependent and immobile species, but also significant and efficient carbon storage. They will become more resilient in the face of climate change, compared to younger-growth forests.

Woodland Trust CEO Dr Darren Moorcroft said:

“This is a great stimulus package for both the environment and the economy. Green recovery begins with sustaining and nurturing the best of what we have. Ancient trees and woods are the Westminster Abbeys of our terrestrial habitats and are culturally resonant landmarks - restoring them will be a cornerstone in wider landscape renewal and nature recovery.

“We and our friends at the National Trust will deliver and demonstrate renewal on our own land and support it beyond those boundaries, restoring damaged woods and conserving our neglected ancient trees. By training and mentoring staff and volunteers, and reaching out to contractors, land managers and students, we will increase skills and capacity within the wider forestry and conservation sectors for a future of more ecologically-diverse and economically-sustainable broadleaved woods.

“Ancient woods and trees are invaluable for nature conservation and restoration offering a range of nature-based solutions, such as carbon sinks, and they deepen people’s connection with nature. This programme will deliver on all themes of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund and we are delighted to have been awarded this funding.”

The restoration programme will be carried out over 15 months starting in January 2021. Sites are spread across England but will focus particularly on Devon, the East of England, Cumbria and Sherwood, Nottinghamshire, as these are priority areas for the two Trusts where work can have the greatest impact.

Hilary McGrady, Director-General at the National Trust said:

“Ancient trees are gentle giants that have brought so much beauty to our landscapes over hundreds of years.

“They are also enormously important for storing carbon. Although they have shown resilience to lots of mini climatic events over their long lives, we urgently need to protect and care for them as climate impacts become more extreme. 

“And they are vital habitats for a wealth of wildlife, including some of our rarest species which depend on ancient woodlands and trees – from fungi to invertebrates like beetles.

“The funds will help us make sure these irreplaceable trees remain here for future generations to enjoy, giving them a helping hand to weather the challenges they face with warming temperatures and the increasing threat of pests and diseases.”

The funding will also be used to survey ancient and veteran trees, expanding the Ancient Tree Inventory, and to produce a skilled cohort of workers and volunteers to manage and care for these beating hearts of our natural heritage into the future.

It will enable the two charities to build capability and capacity by delivering a programme of training courses for staff, land managers and practitioners and engaging Higher Education institutes, identifying study sites, developing case studies and online resources, and a speaker programme to influence foresters of the future.

It will create and sustain 57 roles within the forestry sector through project delivery while retaining and creating eight roles within the partnership.

The project will also be used as an exemplar to demonstrate the benefits of ancient woodland restoration to private landowners, bringing around 280ha across 14 sites into active restoration.

Notes to editors

For media enquiries please contact Dee Smith in the Woodland Trust press office at deesmith@woodlandtrust.org.uk.

The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife.

The Trust has three key aims: 

  1. protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable
  2. restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life
  3. 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.

About the National Trust

The National Trust is a conservation charity founded in 1895 by three people, Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley who saw the importance of the nation’s heritage and open spaces, and wanted to preserve them for everyone to enjoy. 

This year, the charity celebrates its 125th anniversary, and these values are still at the heart of everything it does. 

To help mark this significant moment in its history, the Trust has committed to becoming carbon net zero by 2030, planting and establishing 20 million trees to help tackle climate change, creating green corridors for people and nature near towns and cities, running a year-long campaign to connect people with nature and continuing investment in arts and heritage.

Ensuring everyone who visits feels welcome, and more people can access its places continues to be another key aspect of the charity’s work.

Entirely independent of Government, the National Trust looks after more than 250,000 hectares of countryside, 780 miles of coastline and hundreds of special places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The National Trust receives more than 26.9 million visits each year to the places it cares for that have an entry fee, and an estimated 100m visits to the outdoor places looked after by the charity. Together with 5.6 million members and more than 55,000 volunteers, they help to support the conservation charity in its work to care for nature, beauty, history.  For everyone, for ever.

For more information and ideas for great seasonal days out go to: www.nationaltrust.org.uk