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Forestry Commission help improve SSSI in Lancashire

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Gresgarth Hall

The Forestry Commission has helped to improve a Site of Special Scientific Interest in Lancashire.

The Artle Dale SSSI is located in the grounds of Gresgarth Hall, near Caton, is owned by Mark Lennox-Boyd, husband of renowned landscape gardener Arabella Lennox-Boyd, six times gold medal winner at Chelsea Flower Show – including Best in Show.

It has been designated as an important site for semi-natural mixed broadleaved and yew woodland, and contains a variety of bryophyte species, such as Atlantic and Oceanic bryophyte.

The Forestry Commission provided funding which has improved the SSSI site by improving access, removing invasive species and planting more broadleaved trees.

James Bickley, woodland officer for the Forestry Commission, said: “The work that has taken place at Artle Dale has gone a long way to improve this special site.

“We are committed to improving as many Sites of Special Scientific Interest as we can, especially as this is the International Year of Biodiversity. Artle Dale is a truly special location and the work that is being done here will ensure it will remain special into the future.”

Mike Smith, of Ulverston-based Longbow Forestry, which has been carrying out the work at Artle Dale, said:

“The woodland here is in a steep sided ravine which has ferns and bryophyte mosses. It is a very beautiful little river with dramatic vertical cliffs. A lot of the SSSI is native oak woodland but the invasive species were just swamping it.”

The funding has enabled Longbow to remove one hectare of rhododendron, one and a half hectares of larch conifer, which was planted in the 1960s, and one hectare of sitka spruce.

They have also been able to restock the cleared area with native broadleaf species of trees, including hazel and an area of sycamore has been thinned to improve the habitat for a variety of species.

Arabella Lennox-Boyd said:

“I am delighted that the Forestry Commission has been involved in Gresgarth and I am greatly appreciative of the excellent work they have done.”

The gardens at Gresgarth Hall, which include features such as woodland, winter gardens, a lake and a wild garden, are open to the public on several special days a year.

The work of Forestry Commission rangers in Lancashire and the rest of England has made an important contribution to achieving the national targets.  New figures show that by 1st April 2010 Forestry Commission England had 99% of the SSSIs it directly manages in target condition, greater than any other significant SSSI manager.

Just a few years ago many SSSIs across England were in a poor condition and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) set itself a target to improve 95 per cent of SSIs to either a ‘favourable’ or ‘recovering’ condition by 2010, which is the International Year of Biodiversity.

For information on the types of grant that may be available to create a new woodland or for the stewardship of existing woodlands visit

Notes to editors

1.  Forestry Commission England 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 further information visit

2.  Forestry Commission England runs the English Woodland Grant Scheme (EWGS) to support and promote the national and localised delivery of forestry policy programmes. EWGS is a part of the Rural Development Plan for England (RDPE). Further information about these schemes can be found at:

3.  The Forestry Commission (FC) North West England (NWE) supports the delivery of widespread public benefits across the region, using woodland management and creation as the basis for change. The FC NWE region has a diverse remit; as a grant giving body to the woodland sector; the forestry regulatory body; helping the region to address climate change by developing wood fuel supply; supporting and developing the region's forest and woodland industries; actively promoting and protecting the Northwest's natural heritage (especially ancient trees and woodlands) and enabling communities across the region to live healthier lives. For further information visit

For more information on Gresgarth Hall please visit

Media contacts

James Bickley on (Woodland Officer) on 07774 227640; Penny Oliver (Regional Policy Development Officer) on 07786 171654; or Kevin May (Grants, Regulation and Partnership Manager) on 017687 76616 or 07771 813139.