Snaizeholme: your questions answered
Our acquisition of Snaizeholme sparked the imagination and interest of thousands of Woodland Trust members and supporters who donated to the appeal and contacted us with questions.
Al Nash, estate manager for the Woodland Trust and head of the project team in charge of our strategy for the site, answers some of your most common queries.
Q: Most people love the Dales precisely because it is “open and exposed”. Why do you want to change it into something else?
A: Don’t worry – we’ll be improving a mosaic of existing habitats, including open riverside meadows, upland peat bog, woodland, montane scrub and open acid grassland so although the landscape will change, the variety of new trees and shrubs will definitely make it more attractive – to wildlife and people. We will ensure there is a gradual transition between the habitats, intergrating them carefully into the landscape. The Yorkshire Dales National Park’s woodland strategy makes essential reading: the drive to increase woodland cover here is seen as incredibly important for biodiversity and fighting climate change.
Q: Was the site originally moorland, or woodland cleared for sheep grazing over hundreds of years?
A: It depends how far back you look! After the last ice age 10,000 years ago, 90% of the Yorkshire Dales would have been wooded, before settlers began to clear the forest for dwellings and farming. We’ve already discovered remnant ancient woodland indicators, hidden away in crevices of the rocky outcrops high on the hillside, which we believe originate from woods that once covered the valley sides. The next valley along, which Snaizeholme drops into, is called Widdale – old Norse for wooded valley. It’s also tree-less, apart from blocks of conifers.
Q: How will tree-planting affect ground-nesting birds such as curlews, lapwings and snipe?
A: It won’t all be trees! Diversity of species is what we are aiming for. We are completely committed to creating a mosaic of habitats, improving the landscape overall for plants, birds and animals which are rare and absent now, but also including bird species that already use the area.
Q: How will you be helping red squirrels and other key species?
A: A crucial part of our vision is to extend and protect the existing red squirrel reserve. We’ll link and buffer neighbouring woodland – patches of which we suspect is ancient. The tree-planting and habitat work at Snaizeholme is a golden opportunity to boost biodiversity at a time when the natural world is in crisis. Trees will boost the water quality of the waterways, safeguarding otters and white-clawed crayfish, plus birds such as herons, grey wagtails, kingfishers and dippers.
Q: Will local people get a say in what’s happening at Snaizeholme?
A: Absolutely. This is a major project for the Trust and one I’m personally going to be working very closely on. We want to talk to as many different people as possible and will be continuing consulting local people, local groups and key conservation organisations who have all given us valuable feedback on our exciting plans.
Q: Tell me more about the trees you’ll be planting and why?
A: We’re looking at a real mix – from patchy scrub to taller trees such as Scots pine, oak and birch to create varied structure in the landscape. They’ll definitely all be native and sourced only from the UK and Ireland. We’ll be keeping plenty of open habitat too and allowing existing wooded gullies to naturally regenerate. Apart from trees, we’ll also be restoring and caring for over 150 acres of meadow and peatland, creating a truly unique assortment of habitats.
Q: How can I get involved?
A: We’d love you to! You might like to donate to support our work, tell your family, friends and colleagues about what we are doing and share information about our work. You could also join us for future events. Once dates and details are finalised these will be listed on our events page.