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The Forestry Commission at the award-winning Kielder Water & Forest Park in Northumberland is offering visitors the chance to take part in working forest tours of the 59,000 hectare (145,000-acre) forest. The tours run every Tuesday in August offering a grandstand view of a high-tech timber harvester in action.
Kielder is the largest working forest in England, its size equivalent to 72,000 football pitches. The first trees were planted nearly ninety years ago with the aim of creating a strategic reserve of timber for times of war. Today, it is a powerhouse of timber production, providing one fifth of England's timber harvest, and supporting sawmills and board mills across the north of England and the south of Scotland. Every year the forest produces 440,000 cubic metres of sustainable timber, enough to fill the Royal Albert Hall 4.5 times.
Visitors will be able to see the giant harvesting machines in action, felling and cutting a tree to size in under a minute. Using a mechanical claw linked to an on-board computer, harvesters can cut trees to different customer requirements with remarkable efficiency. These giant machines, costing around £400,000, can cut over 300 trees a day and will work all year round.
The forest is not just about timber production, however. Under Forestry Commission management, the forest has been restructured to deliver a much wider range of benefits. As part of Kielder Water and Forest Park, it has become an award winning visitor destination, a mecca for walking, cycling, mountain biking and a wide range of other outdoor activities. The forest has also become a haven for wildlife, with a wide range of species attracted by the scale and growing maturity and diversity of the forest, including red squirrel, goshawk and osprey.
Graham Gill, North England Forest District Manager at the Forestry Commission said:
"Kielder is a forest which has exceeded all expectations. In the 20 years I have been Forest Manager, Kielder Forest has retained its prominence as timber producer, but it has become so much more. Our work to restructure the forest has really paid off, and the forest, through its recreation and wildlife, together with the infrastructure of walking trails, bike routes and artworks, gives huge enjoyment to hundreds of thousands of visitors every year."
Last year’s tours proved a big hit with the public so booking is essential on 01434 250209. Jennifer Watson, Forestry Commission Recreation Ranger at Kielder Water and Forest Park, said
“This is a really special opportunity to get out and into our beautiful forest and more and more people want to find out about the forest and why it’s there.
"Seeing the machines at work can be really spectacular and makes this a great family day out – children (and parents!) really love watching these monsters cut their way through the forest.”
All tours meet at 2pm at Kielder Castle Visitor Centre and finish back at the Centre at 4pm. A mini-bus will be used to take visitors to the harvesting sites and the cost is £10 per person. Bring stout footwear and please note that dogs are not permitted. More information at www.forestry.gov.uk/kielder.
Media contact: Sarah Bruce, Forestry Commission Marketing and Communications Manager 07827 232832.
High res images available on request.
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. The North England Forest District looks after forests in Cumbria, the Lancashire, Northumbria, Tyne and Wear and County Durham.
2. Kielder Water & Forest Park, which spans 250 square miles, is home to the largest working forest in England and the largest man-made lake in northern Europe. It was awarded the number one tourism experience in England by Visit England 2013, and the most tranquil place in England by the Campaign to Protect Rural England. Together with Northumberland National Park, it was granted gold tier Dark Sky Park status in December 2013. For more information see www.visitkielder.com.
Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust is a registered charity working to develop the Park as an inspirational place. It aims to improve economic, social and environmental sustainability, provide public recreation and leisure facilities, facilitate education in all aspects of the natural environment and advance art and architecture in the Park. The Trust works with the range of communities to benefit from these activities.
Members, who have appointed directors/trustees to serve on the board, are Northumbrian Water, Forestry Commission, Calvert Trust Kielder and Northumberland County Council. Affiliate organisations that are not members but have a close working relationship with KWFPDT include Arts Council England, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency, The Scout Association and local decision making bodies such as the parish councils.