Article prepared by John Lockhart, Chairman

No matter who you talk to, when it comes to woodland they will all agree on one thing and it is that we need more.  Woodland, by its very nature, seems to hold a unique position in people’s hearts, and this was aptly demonstrated during the debacle over the proposed sale of the Forestry Commission back in 2012.

Forestry targets

The Woodland Trust are at the forefront of this woodland creation push, with an aspiration to plant some 83 million trees, approx. 40,000ha’s.

More modestly, in his recent announcement, Michael Gove reasserted the Government’s target to plant 11 million trees in England over the lifetime of the current parliament, and it is understood that the real plan is to massively exceed this target.

However, we are currently falling considerably below even this modest target, and both the Woodland Trust and Confederation of Forest Industries have warned that in England we might be slipping into nett deforestation; something normally associated with the Brazilian rain forest.

We are only planting 700 hectares (1,730 acres) a year, almost certainly less than we are felling

said Austin Brady, the Conservation Director of the Woodland Trust

Woodland forestry timber production 

Now it is clear that to seriously tackle this problem then some significant land use change, in particular in the uplands, will be required. In addition to both the industry and government working closely to promote the real benefits of woodlands.  We need to demonstrate how well designed productive woodland, with both conifers and broadleaves, can be a fantastic resource for quality timber production in conjunction with bio-diversity landscape, and of course, public access.

It is easy to forget that during the proposed sale of the Forestry Commission some of the most ardent and celebrity backed demonstrations took place at Whinlatter Forest, a commercial conifer forest in the Lake District, a National Park and now World Heritage Site.  https://www.forestry.gov.uk/whinlatter

The role of lowlands and unproductive ground in modern forestry

That aside, I believe the lowlands have a significant role to play.  Over the last few years, we have seen our tree and woodland resource under constant pressure from pests and diseases, climate change and a health and safety culture that vastly overreacts to the very low risk posed by our majestic arboricultural neighbours.

So what can we do?  I don’t think I have ever had a conversation with anyone who would not want to see more trees planted.  Landowners often have areas of unproductive ground, many of which have been brought back into agricultural production by a distorted subsidy regime.  With an eye on the future, and with Brexit now rapidly becoming a reality and the inevitable move away for production subsidies, many are asking, could woodland planting be a real option for some of these areas?

Creating opportunities to boost UK forestry 

Apple (orchard in blossom)

Lockhart Garratt have been working closely with the Woodland Trust and other agencies to assist owners and managers to identify these opportunities.  This has sparked some fantastic conversations with ideas such as new orchards and nutteries, cricket bat willows and opportunities for other activities such as glamping and wildlife reserves.   The options are endless.

Planting a tree is a commitment and an investment in the future.  We will not see a tree we plant reach its full potential, but I for one get a fabulous feeling of continuity thinking about my children standing under the canopy of trees they planted as a child and recounting stories of how Dad had them out planting usually in the pouring rain.

Trees enhance all of our lives in so many ways, let’s get out there and stake our claim for a greener and more wooded future.

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