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Endangered woodland birds are set for a boost after the Forestry Commission pledged £8,000 to Rotherham Council for habitat creation work in Old Spring Wood, near Thorpe Salvin.
The grant will be used to support work to revitalise the site by thinning densely planted beech trees and conifers to favour native species like oak and ash and improve forest glades.
The popular beauty spot is designated as an ancient wood, meaning it has been wooded since the earliest reliable maps appeared in the 1600s. However, about two thirds was planted with conifers like Scots pine and beech in the 20th century.
Forest chiefs are keen to support the scheme because it will boost the fortunes of amazing birds like lesser spotted woodpecker, marsh tit, willow tit, hawfinch, woodcock and spotted flycatcher, all of which are known to breed in the area.
Such species have been in decline for many years partly because many woods have become neglected, dark and overgrown.
But a mapping exercise done by the Forestry Commission, RSPB, British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Natural England has underlined that South Yorkshire remains an important haven .
The plans are also being backed because much of the 500 tonnes of timber due to be extracted will be used for woodfuel – demand for which is growing rapidly as more businesses and homes switch to green energy as oil and gas prices escalate.
Vince Carter, from the Forestry Commission, explained:
“Schemes like Old Spring Wood create a virtuous circle - improving the environment helps wildlife and timber can be used as a green alternative to fossil fuels. We are keen to see more of Rotherham’s woods actively managed like this.”
Ian Kennedy, Trees and Woodlands Team Leader at Rotherham Council, added:
“The wood badly needs thinning and such is the demand for woodfuel, especially firewood, we have already sold the timber. Green energy is something we take very seriously in the council and we want to use more of our 500 hectares of woodland to supply our needs. Looking to the future we are keen to continue to work with South Yorkshire Forest Partnership to promote the use of green energy.”
Forest chiefs are working with the South Yorkshire Forest Partnership to encourage Rotherham’s private woodland owners to follow suit and bring woods back in management.
Woodland cover in the borough has risen from 5% in 1986 to about 6.8% now, or 2,500 hectares. But a significant amount is under-managed and could be better for wildlife and local economy.
Rudie Humphrey, from the Forestry Commission, said:
“Such woods are an untapped resource both for the owners, wildlife and the community. We have now secured over £200,000 from the EU to encourage owners in South Yorkshire to turn over a new leaf and produce more timber. Wood fuel is gaining ground on coal, gas and oil, and more biomass installations are being installed all the time. But a key bottleneck in developing this green industry could be lack of locally grown timber to feed demand.”
NOTES TO EDITOR
- Under the EU-funded Activating Forest Owners programme free workshops are being organised for private woodland owners. The next take place on 5 July in Barnsley and Sheffield. To find out more contact To find out more contact Robin Ridley on 0114 2571199, email email@example.com
- Also as part of the scheme, experts from Austria and Finland are also been flown in to South Yorkshire to share their knowledge. Both nations are ahead of the UK in wooduel – Austria has 8,000 biomass boilers - and have far more private owners supplying timber for green energy needs. Woodland owners from South Yorkshire will make the return visit in October to meet their Austrian and Finnish counter-parts on a five day mission.
- Yorkshire and Humber produces about 300,000 tonnes of timber each year. Estimates suggest this has the potential to rise to 340,000 tonnes.
- The UK is one of four countries awarded cash under the EU funded Activating Forest Owners scheme together with France, Slovenia and Latvia. The EU has a target of having 20% of Europe’s renewable energy production achieved through wood fuel combustion by 2020. For more information visit www.afo.eu.com.
- 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. www.forestry.gov.uk/YorkshireandtheHumber
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