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No sitting on the fence as eco-scheme gallops ahead

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Forest worker Andy Carr with a bundle of birch destined to be used building racecourse fences up and down the country - from Aintree to Wetherby

A scenic North York Moors wood which is undergoing a green make-over is racing ahead thanks to demand for horse racing hurdles.

Thousands of birch branches are being harvested into bundles in Ingleby Greenhowe, near Stokesley, to help in the restoration of precious ancient woodland by the Forestry Commission. 

The timber will be used to repair and build fences on racecourses across the UK as the steeplechase season gets into its winter stride, whilst giving the back-to-nature project a boost.

Forester Ian Blair explained:

"We have a long term aim to restore ancient woodland in Ingleby and broaden habitats.  Birch is being harvested in a ten hectare (25 acre) area which was cleared of conifers a decade or so ago and which is now flourishing with alder, rowan, willow, oak as well as birch.  But it's important that the faster growing birch is thinned out occasionally so it doesn’t squeeze out the other trees and maintains a balanced forest structure.  Using the timber for horse racing fences is an excellent solution."

Thinning work is being carried by contractors on behalf of  Richmond-based  Watt Fences  using chainsaws and plenty of elbow grease. 

The hardy forest workers are making a novel contribution to the wood's future which is mapped out in a 50 year blueprint unveiled by the Forestry Commission  

Eventually, nearly 50% of the beauty spot's 546 hectares (1,365 acres) will revert to native broadleaves by removing conifers planted in the post war years. But elsewhere, conifers will continue to be grown to produce much needed timber.

Nigel Rylance, Forestry Commission Planning Forester for the North York Moors, added:

“Nestling in the Cleveland Hills Ingleby is a beautiful place famed for its prehistoric tree ferns fossils and jet mining remains. Thanks to this plan the wood will get even better. The aim is to create a mosaic of habitats where all kinds of wildlife and plants can find a secure future, whilst protecting the area's wonderful archaeology.”

As part of the scheme the hard forest edge where it borders heather moorland will be felled and allowed to regenerate naturally with native trees.  There will also be protection for 197 non-scheduled biological and archaeological areas. These include the site of a grass snake colony – the only location in 22,400 hectare (56,000 acres) of public woodland in North Yorkshire where the reptile is known to occur.  Public access will be preserved for walkers and mountain bikers and the plans have been agreed with the North York Moors National Park Authority.

Note to Editor

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

Media calls to Richard Darn on 0775 367 0038