UBoC at Hardknott Forest

Restoring Hardknott Forest is a partnership between the University of Leeds and Forestry England which is restoring a 630 hectare former conifer plantation to a native oak and birch woodland.

UBoC Chair Dr Jonathan Wild

Since 2003 volunteers, including local residents and school children, and staff and students from the University of Leeds, have engaged in regular practical work parties to restore the area to native woodland. 

UBoC has now been supporting this project for a number of years, so trustee Dr Jonathan Wild visited to tour the site with project founder Professor Dom Spracklen and Project Officer John Hodgson.

Before restoration
After restoration

The tour took in areas of impressive natural tree regeneration as well as some priority areas where the project is targeting the removal of invasive conifers. A few more oak were added to the forest in the last tree planting of the season, and a new all-weather poster, which describes the project to visitors to the forest, was unveiled. The posters will be available at the car park and on the footpath and bridleway junctions to inform walkers and other recreational users of the forest about the restoration, and hopefully to recruit more volunteers.

John Hodgson and Professor Dom Spracklen

The project held its Spring residential last weekend. This was a great success – with volunteers attending from all over Cumbria, Yorkshire, Manchester and London. Large areas of Sitka spruce were cleared to uncover many naturally-regenerating trees. The Autumn residential is on the 5th and 6th of October.

This month John will be surveying an area of peatland which will be rewetted and restored. This had originally been drained to allow for conifer planting, but now Forestry England (the new name for the Forestry Commission) are providing the expertise and funding to return it to its natural state. There will be benefits for wildlife, such as dragonflies and water beetles, as well as upland waders and other birds, and because peatlands store huge quantities of carbon, there will be climate benefits too.