Tree planting in the Dales – an opportunity to view

Since 1996, Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust has been planting trees in the Yorkshire Dales.  They have planted more than 1.5 million trees in a diverse range of sites.  Of course, all this activity has to be funded and the Trust seems to be adept at finding funding sources from public bodies and businesses.  An alternative source of funding comes from members of the public who dedicate a tree (or several) in memory of a loved one or just as an alternative gift for a birthday or Christmas

I chose to do this a few years ago as a birthday gift for my father.  As a result of my financial contribution, the Trust was able to plant two native broadleaf trees in Ormsgill Wood, near Airton and a few days ago, we attended an Open Day to have a look at the series of woodlands that have been developed.  Because the woodlands created by the Trust are intended to mimic what happens in nature, the individual trees are not marked and you cannot choose where “your” trees will be planted but the Open Day was a wonderful opportunity to have a look at the area and see what the Trust has achieved.

Image courtesy of YDMT

The site of the Ormsgill woodland has several streams running through it.  Because it is quite a damp area of land, the trees planted are appropriate for wetland areas and include Downy Birch, Silver Birch, Rowan, Hazel, Bird Cherry, Sessile Oak, Goat Willow and Hawthorn.  More than 20,000 trees have been planted in three distinct areas, all sympathetic to the landscape and intended to complement the existing vegetation and woodland.

The streams at Ormsgill form some of the headwaters of the river Aire that flows from the Dales through Skipton to Leeds and beyond.  The site was selected, in part, because of this.  In recent years, the Aire has flooded in Leeds and increasing the woodland coverage in the upper reaches of the catchment should slow the flow of water into the river and, over time, reduce the likelihood of flooding further down stream.  Leeds City Council is contributing to additional woodland creation in the Aire catchment with this in mind and also to contribute to the alleviation of climate breakdown by planting trees to absorb carbon dioxide.

Carol Douglas, Woodland Officer at the Trust, who was taking the opportunity afforded by the Open Day to do some maintenance on the woodland, advised that the success rate for the planting is approaching 90%, which is higher than is planned for.  Plastic tree guards are used to protect the saplings as they become established and the individual areas of woodland are fenced to prevent ingress by the numerous sheep grazing the adjacent pasture.  As the woodland areas have not been grazed, at the time of our visit, the grass and other vegetation was waist high and walking through the woodland areas was a challenge.  But it was good to get up close and personal to some of the trees on the site.

Although maintenance of the woodland, including removal of the tree guards, is the responsibility of the landowner, this rarely happens.  The Trust works with several volunteer groups who spend time removing the tree guards for recycling.  The manufacturers are, apparently, able to manufacture new guards from those removed and are working towards a circular process.  Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust is also carrying out research into alternative tree guards and the ultimate aim would be to find material to make a tree guard that is durable enough to protect the trees for up to 10 years but which would, ultimately compost in-situ and provide some nutritional benefit to the tree.  Are there any materials scientists out there up for a challenge?

We had an enjoyable and interesting couple of hours at Ormsgill.  Although relatively close to Airton and other Dales villages, the woodland is quite remote.  The views over Airedale and across to Pendle Hill are spectacular and when there are no visitors to an Open Day, it must be very quiet.  I intend to visit again in the near future via the network of footpaths and look forward to experiencing it in those circumstances.  In the meantime, thanks to Carol Douglas and her colleagues from Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust for the opportunity to visit and for their willingness to share their knowledge and experience with us and the other visitors.