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NEWS RELEASE No: 1445629 MARCH 2011

New grants unveiled to tackle flood risk and restore region's oldest woods

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Trees surrounded by flood water following heavy rain

New Forestry Commission grant schemes have been launched aimed at encouraging the region's land owners to plant trees to help reduce flood risk and breath new life into ancient woods.

Flooding has cost the region millions of pounds in the last decade and groundbreaking research into using trees to lessen the severity of such episodes has been pioneered in Yorkshire with a project based around Pickering.

Experts say that woodland acts as a physical barrier to floodwater, whilst trees also prevent soil erosion, reduce sediment going into rivers and increases water absorption into the ground.  This slows down the rate at which rainwater runs off into swollen streams and rivers and helps to lower peak flood levels.

Now a mapping exercise carried out by the Forestry Commission and Environment Agency has identified areas which could benefit from new woodland.  Landowners in these targeted floodplain, riparian (riverside), and upper catchment zones will be able to take advantage of generous grants.  Areas identified include parts of the Yorkshire Dales, Nidderdale, Vale of Pickering,  Yorkshire Wolds, North East Lincs, South Yorkshire and Kirklees. 

Grants already been made under the scheme include:

  • Levisham Estate near Pickering, 4 hectares (10 acres)
  • Skipster Hagg Farm near Pickering. 15 hectares (37.5 acres)
  • Beacon Farm near Whitby. 1 hectares (2.5 acres)
  • Gibralter Farm, near Hebden Bridge. 1 hectares (2.5 acres)
  • Backstone Beck Wood, near Pateley Bridge. 4.5 hectares (11.25 acres) 

Ancient woods are areas which have been continuously wooded since the first reliable maps were produced in the 1600s.  They cover 23,000 hectares (57,500 acres) of the region and support a vast array of insects, animals and plants.  But a survey carried out by the Forestry Commission has revealed that many urgently need management work to restore their age-old character.

Now cash help is available to help owners in targeted areas tackle problems, which could include excluding grazing stock, axing conifers planted in the 20th century to allow native trees and plant species to thrive, removing invasive vegetation and breaking up dense tree cover to allow light to penetrate and nourish new growth.

Forest chiefs estimate that over 50% of woods in the private sector in the Yorkshire and the Humber are undermanaged, including many ancient woods. Adopting a more hands-on approach would extend habitats for creatures like woodland birds and also provide a supply of timber. This is especially important as demand has begun to outstrip supply in the rapidly expanding woodfuel market. The first grants offering 80% of the costs of the work have been awarded to: 

  • Gilling Wood, near Richmond, North Yorkshire
  • Helmsley Estate, North Yorkshire
  • Ampleforth Estate, North Yorkshire.
    Rudding Park Estate, near Ripon, North Yorkshire.
  • Wickersley Wood, near Rotherham, South Yorkshire
  • Cannon Hall Estate, near Barnsley, South Yorkshire

Jeremy Dick, Forestry Commission Delivery Manager, said:

"These projects will draw on a £200,000 fund from Yorkshire Forward and will deliver a host of benefits for the region. We know that trees can provide an effective eco-friendly method of reducing the severity of flooding and our new mapping data has highlighted key areas."

He continued: 

"Ancient woods are  irreplaceable, but many are in a poor and worsening condition as native species and habitats decline.  But even if they have been partially planted with conifers, they can still be rescued. But there is a time limit so we are anxious to reach out to landowners through this grant before its too late.  With timber demand picking up this is an ecological and economically sound option."

To find out more contact the Forestry Commission on 01904 382300 or go to

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 contact: Richard Darn on 0775 367 0038.