Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Woodland Rebirth Appeal; ENVIRONMENT Editor TONY HENDERSON on the Saving of Our Woodland Past

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Woodland Rebirth Appeal; ENVIRONMENT Editor TONY HENDERSON on the Saving of Our Woodland Past

Article excerpt

AN APPEAL has been launched to help fund a project to bring a crucial woodland back from the brink.

The 200-acre Milkwellburn Wood in the Derwent Valley is an ancient woodland site , two thirds of which has been planted over the years with commercial conifers.

Durham Wildlife Trust has been negotiating for the privately-owned wood and has been awarded pounds 220,000 by the County Durham Environmental Trust.

But another pounds 50,000 is needed to buy the wood and the trust is hoping that its public appeal will do the trick.

If successful, it would mean that the site would become the trust's biggest woodland nature reserve, beating the 150-acre Hawthorn Dene on the County Durham coast.

The aim at Milkwellburn would be to gradually and sensitively fell mature conifers and over a period of 50 or so years allow the natural regeneration of the original broadleaf woodland.

The woodland under-storey and its plants have been shaded and covered in pine needles for 60 years and the natural seed bank, from which regeneration would spring, is at its viability limit.

Trust reserves manager Mark Richardson said: "If the wood was taken over by a commercial operation it would be replanted with conifers and that would be 120 years of shading, and the woodland seed bank would no longer be viable.

"It would be impossible to restore the site. We are at the critical stage and we need to act now."

The wood is near Blackhall Mill in Gateshead, on the border with Northumberland, and makes a considerable contribution to the wooded appearance of the Derwent Valley. "Milkwellburn would provide the trust with a fantastic opportunity to restore a significant area of woodland back to its former glory," said Mark.

"Its size and location in the middle of the Derwent Valley make it very important. We have never done anything like this before on such a big scale."

Prof David Bellamy, president of Durham Wildlife Trust, said: "This is, without doubt, one of the most exciting and ambitious acquisitions the trust has ever contemplated, and we need people's help to make it happen.

"Only fragments of our ancient broadleaved woodland remain. …

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