New native woodland planted in upper Wensleydale

New native woodland is being created on Sleddale Pasture either side of the wood on Swinesett in top right of picture_lower.

Two landowners in Sleddale, above Gayle, have spoken about their motivations for planting large areas of new native woodland.

Farmer Andrew Davis from Nateby has planted trees across 287 acres (116 hectares) of land that used to be part of West Shaw Farm as run by the Chapman family until 2019.

Nearby, electrical engineer Chris Armstrong, originally from Middlesbrough, has planted trees immediately next door to Mr Davis’ Sleddale Pasture, on 27 acres (11 hectares) of Swinesett Hill, close to Faw Head.

Mr Davis, who runs a sheep enterprise on his home farm near Kirkby Stephen, also planted up a large area of rough ground over the fell, by the Cam Road track, in 2019 and those trees have now emerged from their guards.

His schemes have been funded by the Government body, Natural England.

Under a Countryside Stewardship agreement, the cost of the young trees and associated fencing are met in full, while he will receive annual per hectare payments for the next ten years to carry out maintenance work to ensure the woodlands get established.

Mr Armstrong’s woodland was also largely funded through Countryside Stewardship, in association with other support including from local charity Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust.

Andrew Davis said: “The thinking is that it is marginal farmland and that the direction of travel with British agricultural policy is that the government wants more trees on these sort of areas.

“All my life I’ve wanted to farm in a nice ringfence but you can’t always do that, so the advantage with trees is that you can buy further from home and manage it.

“Is there money in trees?  Yes and no. There is money in trees if it fits your farm and the land.

“There the land can produce more per hectare with trees than with livestock, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it.

“At the end of the day, I’ve got to make a living. 30,000 trees have been planted with guards and another 30,000 without guards.

“The only downside is that long term it won’t create a lot of work.”

He was asked whether he had considered permitting public access across through the woodland, as a path up through Sleddale Pasture would create a triangular walk out of Gayle, linking the track that runs along the bottom of the new woodland with the Pennine Way which goes up to Ten End.

Mr Davies said he hadn’t considered access but that he would be open to it.

“There may be payments to come on creating walks and access. That would be wise and logical,” he said.

Chris Armstrong, who travels around the world with his job, said he had already been busy managing his new woodland next door at Swinesett Hill.

Trees have been planted at a greater density here than on Sleddale Pasture.

“13,000 native trees were planted over the 11 hectares and within six weeks, 30 had blown over, so I replaced them.

“It’s going to need work to keep on top of it and get it all established.

“I’ve a passion for trees, for putting something back in the countryside.

“I want it to be a working wood that is coppiced and produces firewood and charcoal – it won’t be just something nice to look at.

“It will be better for wildlife as well.

“We should be able to get some red squirrels back in there.

“It’s a long term project.  I won’t see the trees coming out the guards this year.  Long-lasting oak trees have gone in, ” he said.

Both men recognised that planting new woodland on farmland was controversial in some quarters.

Chris Armstrong said: “If I was in farming, I would wonder about land being taken out of farming for trees, but apart from the first meadow the land was rough with a lot of stone in it.

“Towards the top of the planting it is shrub so there won’t be a stark outline and it’s all native trees, not banks of conifers.

“It was woodland originally, so all we’re doing is taking it back.”

West Shaw means ‘West Wood’ in Old English, while Widdale is Old Norse for ‘Wooded Valley’.

1 Comment

  1. Fabulous news. Native species that will rebuild the landscape will be amazing and it would be great to see more red squirrels resettling in the dale. Farming in Protected Landscapes offers some enormous challenges but well done Andrew and Chris

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