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Hi-tech mulcher speeds creation of native woodland in Teesdale

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mulcher in operation

A harvesting machine which fells trees from the top down in just seconds is helping a Teesdale wood to turn over a new leaf.

The Forestry Commission has pledged nearly 11,400 to re-plant a 5.8 hectares (14.5 acres) of conifer wood around Selset Reservoir near Middleton in Teesdale with over 5,000 broadleaf trees, including oak, ash, willow and rowan.

Work on the site, which is owned by Northumbrian Water, is being carried out by the North Pennines AONB Partnership as part of its Living North Pennines project.

The three year initiative, backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund, is aiming to nurture 250 hectares (625 acres) of new native woods in the AONB to replace those lost over the centuries in what will be a massive boost to wildlife.

But before saplings take root at Selset, over 10,000 conifers must be felled and that's a job for a spectacular piece of forestry hardware called a vertical mulcher.

Due to the site's boggy and inaccessible terrain, it’s been decided to mulch the timber in situ rather than extract it.

The 25 tonne machine does the task in double quick time using a cutting head, which can turn a 30-foot tree into a pile of chips in just 15 seconds.

Ian Everard, from the Forestry Commission, said:

"Native woods are a key wildlife habitat and this project promises major gains in future years. Long-term deforestation has left the AONB with less than one percent of native tree cover, much of it fragmented, compared with the UK average of over five percent. But we are moving in the right direction and so far we have made grants totalling nearly 30,000 towards the creation or conversion of just under 100 hectares of native woods since the Living North Pennines project began. And more schemes are in the pipeline.”

The mulching is being funded by the North Pennines AONB Partnership and carried out by specialist contractor Oakfields Plant Hire of Stockton on Tees.

Replanting will be undertaken in the spring and supported for by the Forestry Commission’s English Woodland Grant Scheme.

Ian Everard added:

“Conifer woods remain vital for the region’s economy and to support a more sustainable future, but they need to be in the right places. This scheme is another boost to the North Pennines environment.”

Lis Airey, the AONB Partnership’s Woodlands Officer said:

“We are extremely pleased to see the work at Selset coming together. This scheme has taken a great deal of preparation, as access to the site is so difficult. In addition to the boggy ground there are also areas of high biodiversity that we were keen not to damage. For this reason the mulcher provided the ideal solution, its tracks are so wide that the impact it makes on the ground is calculated as less than a human footprint. Ironically the cold weather has further lessened the risk of damaging the ground as much of the mulching has taken place over frozen snow.”

Jon Charlton, Project Manager for the Living North Pennines project added:

“This project is a great example of what can be achieved where strong partnerships are established. We have been working with Northumbrian Water Ltd and our funders to make this happen for some time now. We have been particularly encouraged by the positive response our scheme has received from the local community. We held a consultation event with the residents of Lunedale, which helped our thinking on how best to tackle the site. One of the new woods we’re creating will be christened by local people.”

In addition to financial support from the Forestry Commission, the woodland creation work being undertaken by the North Pennines AONB Partnership has been made possible via funding from the SITA Trust’s Enriching Nature Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

1. Picture shows a vertical mulcher in action at Selset Reservoir speeding the creation of a new native woodland by felling conifers, which currently occupy the site. Credit NPAPSH! TV

2. For more information on the Forestry Commission’s English Woodland Grants Scheme contact 01388 488721, or go to

3. The English Woodland Grant Scheme is part of the Rural Development programme for England 2007-2013, which is jointly funded by Defra and the European Union. The RDPE aims to deliver targeted support to rural businesses, the natural environment and communities. It is managed in the region by One North East, Natural England and the Forestry Commission.

4. 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.

5. The North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is one of the finest landscapes in the country. It was designated in 1988 and at almost 2,000 sq. kilometres it is the second largest of the 49 AONBs (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and is one of the most peaceful and unspoilt places in England. The purpose of designation is the conservation and enhancement of natural beauty. It lies between the National Parks of the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, and Northumberland with the urban centres of County Durham away to the east. The AONB lies within the boundaries of five local authorities; the three counties of Cumbria, Durham and Northumberland and the two districts of Carlisle and Eden. More information – call 01388 528801 ( or visit

6. The Living North Pennines Project is a Heritage Lottery Funded project being delivered by the North Pennines AONB Partnership staff unit. It is funded for three years from 2008-2010. The aims of the project are:
a. To conserve and enhance key features of the nationally important landscape, biodiversity and historic environment of the North Pennines
b. To encourage increased understanding of the key role people have played in moulding this landscape
c. To encourage increased employment of and learning about this part of England to help ensure its continued unique character.

7. Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, and to learn from and enjoy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported more than 28,800 projects, allocating over 4.3billion across the UK, with over 208 million has granted in the North East alone. Website:

8. SITA Trust was set up in 1997 and runs three funding programmes:
 Enhancing Communities – funding community improvement projects around qualifying waste management sites owned by SITA UK.
 Enriching Nature – funding biodiversity conservation projects within the vicinity of landfill sites in England.
 GreenPrints – funding environmental volunteering opportunities for young people aged 16-25
In 2008 SITA Trust donated over 7.5 million nationwide through the Landfill Communities Fund.
SITA Trust has, to date, funded over 2000 projects with a combined value of more than 66 million.

Richard Darn on 01226 246351, mobile 0775 367 0038.

For SITA Trust - Jools Mackin, Communications Manager on 01454 262940 mobile 07870 253048 or email