New Year, new Wildwood project for Kielder

Northumberland Wildlife Trust, in partnership with the Forestry Commission, has received a National Lottery grant of £354,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help deliver an exciting project to restore one of the wildest landscapes in England.

Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the ‘Kielderhead Wildwood’ project’s vision is to establish low density, native upland woodland, as in ancient pine forests, on 100 hectares of open land along Scaup Burn at Kielderhead. As one of the remotest places in England, it is the ideal location for establishing this ambitious restoration project.
Much of our upland woodland has been lost due to land-use change over millennia. Pollen analysis show that thousands of years ago a diverse woodland was supported in the area with alder, birch, elm and willow, as well as Scots pine, of which a few ancient remnant trees are believed to have survived.

The vision of Kielderhead Wildwood is to bring all this back, restoring natural processes and rebuilding a diverse and healthy ecosystem that will help with carbon storage and water quality.

By using local seed stock and innovative propagation techniques, the wildlife charity and Forestry Commission hope to give nature a helping hand, which will increase biodiversity and build a resilient ecosystem. This will favour declining, red-list upland bird species such as dunnock, mistle thrush, song thrush, tree pipit, woodcock and black grouse.

In the long-term, more native trees will be planted, bringing a more natural feel to the forest and encouraging the movement and spread of native wildlife.

Much of the restoration work, such as tree planting, will be carried out by volunteers and engaging and training them will be vital for the delivery of the project. An exciting ecological monitoring programme involving local people and volunteers will also be part of the activities. This will enable the identification of the true richness of the area and its potential for future enhancement.

Engaging and informing the wider public about the uniqueness and value of the natural heritage being restored here will also be key to the project. This will be achieved through various engagement activities, such as school’s loan boxes, travelling exhibitions, self-guided walks, blogs and regular social media updates.

Mike Pratt, Northumberland Wildlife Chief Executive, said: “The scale and remoteness of this project make it very inspiring as this is seen as the start of a whole new approach, part of a vision to make these uplands more natural, diverse and even wilder than they are now into the future.

“It is the start of something big and will benefit many species and give a great sense of fulfilment to those contributing to it. It is another great example of conservation in partnership with the landowners and The Forestry Commission with whom we have achieved so much over recent years.”

Kevin May, Director, Forest Enterprise for the Forestry Commission in the North of England is delighted with the funding award, he said: “This is a project inspired by the energy, passion and professionalism of Northumberland Wildlife Trust and Forestry Commission staff working together in partnership. The funding provided through HLF and the engagement of local and enthused volunteers will ensure exemplary delivery of this new ‘Wildwood’. Its adjacency to Kielder Forest continues the ongoing evolution of England’s largest spruce forest into a rich, diverse and complex ecosystem supporting people, nature and the economy.”

Ivor Crowther, Head of HLF North East, said: “One of our wildest landscapes and home to some of the last remaining William’s Cleugh varieties of Scots Pine in England, Kielderhead is an incredibly important part of our natural heritage. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, volunteers will gain the skills needed to become a driving force behind building a healthy future for the landscape, the wildlife that call it home and the people who enjoy it.”