ANCIENT woods and trees across England are to benefit from a programme of restoration thanks to a cash boost from the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund, it has been announced.

The Woodland Trust and National Trust have been awarded £3.86 million to undertake vital ancient woodland restoration work on 60 sites (638 ha) across their respective estates, while bringing many ancient and veteran trees into active management.

The project is also intended to boost the economy by creating and retaining jobs within the forestry sector, stimulating demand in the sector and supporting sustainable growth.

Dr Darren Moorcroft, Woodland Trust CEO, commented: “This is a great stimulus package for both the environment and the economy. Green recovery begins with sustaining and nurturing the best of what we have. Ancient trees and woods are the Westminster Abbeys of our terrestrial habitats and are culturally resonant landmarks – restoring them will be a cornerstone in wider landscape renewal and nature recovery.

“We and our friends at the National Trust will deliver and demonstrate renewal on our own land and support it beyond those boundaries, restoring damaged woods and conserving our neglected ancient trees. By training and mentoring staff and volunteers, and reaching out to contractors, land managers and students, we will increase skills and capacity within the wider forestry and conservation sectors for a future of more ecologically diverse and economically sustainable broadleaved woods.

“Ancient Woods and Trees are invaluable for nature conservation and restoration offering a range of nature-based solutions, such as carbon sinks, and they deepen people’s connection with nature. This programme will deliver on all themes of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund and we are delighted to have been awarded this funding.”

Hilary McGrady, director-general at the National Trust, said: “Ancient trees are gentle giants that have brought so much beauty to our landscapes over hundreds of years.

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“They are also enormously important for storing carbon. Although they have shown resilience to lots of mini climatic events over their long lives, we urgently need to protect and care for them as climate impacts become more extreme. 

“And they are vital habitats for a wealth of wildlife, including some of our rarest species which depend on ancient woodlands and trees – from fungi to invertebrates like beetles.

“The funds will help us make sure these irreplaceable trees remain here for future generations to enjoy, giving them a helping hand to weather the challenges they face with warming temperatures and the increasing threat of pests and diseases.”

The funding will also be used to survey ancient and veteran trees and to produce a skilled cohort of workers and volunteers to manage and care for these trees in the future.

It will enable the two charities to build capability and capacity by delivering a programme of training courses for staff, land managers and practitioners and engaging higher education institutes, identifying study sites, developing case studies and online resources, and a speaker programme.

It will create and sustain 57 roles within the forestry sector through project delivery while retaining and creating eight roles within the partnership, the Trusts said. The project will also be used as an exemplar to demonstrate the benefits of ancient woodland restoration to private landowners, bringing around 280 ha across 14 sites into active restoration.

The restoration programme will be carried out over 15 months starting in January 2021.

Sites are spread across England but will focus particularly on Devon, the east of England, Cumbria and Sherwood, Nottinghamshire, as these are priority areas for the two Trusts.

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