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NEWS RELEASE No: 132548 MARCH 2010

Ancient woodland set for revival in the North York Moors

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scenic photo of north york moors

Many of North Yorkshire’s most vulnerable precious woods designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) are on the road to recovery after a major push to improve their condition.

After an alarming survey eight years ago revealed that nearly 50% of England’s SSSI land area was in a poor condition the Forestry Commission, in partnership with Natural England, has been striving to revive key woodland sites in the region using its grant schemes.

Now forest chiefs have taken another step forward in meeting the Government’s goal of getting 95% of the SSSI area into favourable condition by the end of this year.

They have allocated 40,000 for vital restoration work to an ancient North York Moors wood which will see it return to its historic roots.

Thousands of densely planted western hemlock conifers planted in the 20th century will be axed in 44 hectare (110 acre) West Arncliffe and Park Hole Woods, Glaisdale, near Whitby, allowing trees like sessile oak to regenerate. The site dates back to at least 1600 and is a key habitat for wildlife and plants, including rare ferns and grasses.

Stewart Bates, who bought the wood eight years ago, explained:

“Removing the Western hemlock will be a major boost, piercing the gloom with nourishing sunlight and preventing plants like the ferns from being shaded out. The wood is an oasis of calm which on a sunny day is a delight to the senses. It will be immensely satisfying watching it regain its full vigour.”

Mick Hoban, Forestry Commission Woodland Officer, added:

“Targets are important, but the key thing is the difference this kind of work makes on the ground. Arncliffe and Park Hole Woods are a majestic part of the Glaisdale valley around the River Esk. By focusing our grants on improving the condition of SSSIs like this we will reap the maximum dividend in boosting biodiversity and helping a fragile environment.”

The Forestry Commission has also worked hard to improve the condition of the 16 SSSI’s on its 22,400 hectare (56,000 acre) estate in North Yorkshire. They include Sieve Dale Fen in Dalby Forest, near Pickering, the only English haven for an incredibly rare soldier fly, and Botton Head, Ingleby Greenhowe, designated for its amazing rock formations containing the fossilised remains of prehistoric tree ferns.

Andrew Windrum, Lead SSSI Advisor with Natural England, said:

“With just under 90% of the SSSIs land area in the region now in a favourable condition we are on course to meet the Government’s target. That’s impressive progress by anyone’s standard, based on a real partnership effort. West Arncliffe and Park Hole Woods is a key site for us. We’re very pleased that work will soon get underway thanks to a forward thinking landowner and support from the Forestry Commission and North York Moors National Park Authority.”

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. Further information can be found at

Issued on behalf of the Forestry Commission by Richard Darn, COI, Leeds.

Richard Darn on 0113 341 3178. Mobile: 0775 367 0038