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Forest fire recovery work begins at Swinley

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Fire at Swinley Forest

The Forestry Commission begins recovery work at Swinley Forest next week following the worst fires Berkshire has ever seen. Huge 20 tonne tree mulching machinery is to set to work to mow down burnt trees and clear up to 40 hectares of fire damaged forest. It will take over three weeks to complete.

Nick Hazlitt, beat forester for the Forestry Commission, said:

"It’s quite a spectacle to see trees disappearing into sawdust and chippings under the heavy mulching arm. It will also be exciting as it signals the start of the replanting phase and forest recovery after much planning.

"While it appears to be destructive as the burnt trees are laid to rest it is necessary to bring an end to the old and beginning for the new trees. There will always be some permanent reminders of the fire but this will be a very positive move forwards."

The debris is left to act as a mulch suppressing competing weeds, conserving moisture and protecting against frost and excessive sun. Scarifiers will then prepare the earth, up turning soil, ready for replanting.

The first trees are planned to be planted in November and the remainder in February and March 2012, with the help of volunteers from the local community.

Some 60-70,000 trees are to replace those lost in the fire at Crowthorne Forest including a selection of conifer trees such as Douglas Fir, Scots Pine and Western Hemlock, which are grown to produce FSC sustainable timber.

New bands of broadleaf trees, not previously seen at Crowthorne, which are more fire retardant than conifer trees will also be planted. Birch, chestnut and sessile oak will be positioned on forest boundaries and alongside core fire break roads and rides to help reduce the risk of fires spreading.

Some of these are to become feature trees on the landscape that are retained into the next century to give locations new identity and a sense of place for local people and visitors.

Notes to Editor

  1. 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. For more visit 

  2. Media Contact: Jo Spouncer, PR contact, Forestry Commission South East England T: 01483 326265 M: 07828 762045 E: