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The public are being given chance to comment on a major "back to nature plan" for Guisborough Forest.
The 468-hectare (1,156-acre) wood, which nestles along the steep northern edge of the North York Moors, is the region's biggest and is visited by at least 250,000 people each year.
Now a 50-year scheme drawn up by the Forestry Commission could see it transformed into an even better place for people and wildlife.
Currently, 85% of the wood is planted with conifer trees, which took root after the war to help shore up the nation's depleted timber reserves. Under the new proposals, most of these will be slowly felled and replaced by broadleaf trees like oak, ash and rowan, which eventually will comprise three quarters of the wood. Forest chiefs say the boost to wildlife will be huge. Birds like spotted flycatcher and tree pipit could benefit, along with other species which have dwindled due to habitat loss. Woodland plants would also get a boost.
Press Call: Forester Alastair Cumming will be available for photos/interviews against a spectacular backdrop overlooking the forest. Meet at Guisborough Forest and Walkway Visitor Centre, Pinchinthorpe, at 12 noon prompt on Monday, 4 December. The location is a ten minute drive away.
The Forestry Commission want to know what local people think of the blueprint and so is staging a public meeting at 6.30pm in the Lecture Theatre at Prior Pursglove College, Church Walk, Guisborough. Everyone is welcome to attend.
Forester Alastair Cumming said:
"The woodland has seen its fair share of hard work over the centuries. The land bears the marks of previous industries, including alum, jet and iron mining. Large scale forestry arrived in the 1950s based on similar commercial reasons. But times have changed and so have attitudes. This blueprint recognises the vast potential of the wood to deliver a multitude of benefits - not the least of which is offering healthy recreational opportunities for local people. The change will be gradual, but the dividends long lasting."
As part of the plan, the wood's hard planted edges will also be re-shaped to blend in better with the landscape. Moorland areas will also be restored in some areas and breathtaking views opened up across the countryside. About 65-hectares (162-acres) of conifers will be felled during the first five years to re-shape the forest's southern edge.
Alastair Cumming added:
“The plan will evolve over 50 years. There will be some dramatic changes in the first five years, after which change will be more gradual. The replanting of trees will be carried out by a combination of hand planting and allowing natural regeneration to take its course.”
Preliminary consultations have already been held with local people, along with the North York Moors National Park, Redcar and Cleveland Council, the leasehold estate, Cleveland Archaeology, Tees Valley Wildlife Trust and Teesmouth Bird Club.
Note to editor
The Forestry Commission own the western half of Guisborough Forest and manage the remainder on a long term lease.
The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands.
Media calls to Richard Darn on 0113 2836598. Mobile: 0775 367 0038.
ISSUED ON BEHALF OF THE FORESTRY COMMISSION BY RICHARD DARN, GNN, CITY HOUSE, LEEDS, LS1 4JG. TEL: 0113 2836598.