“I believe if we all work together and educate visitors as well as locals on how they can make a positive impact we can not only protect but enhance the county.”
For over 100 years, Forestry England has been growing, shaping and caring for over 1,500 of our nation’s forests including the county’s very own for the benefit and enjoyment of all and future generations.
On November 26th 2021 the UK was hit by Storm Arwen. Around 1 million trees came down across Northumberland in that single night and the complex recovery work has been ongoing ever since and will most likely continue into 2023.
We chatted to Alex MacLeannan, Recreation Public Affairs Manager Northumberland, just one of Forestry England’s many team members who have been working tirelessly to restore and reopen the county’s forests.
This is what we found out.
“I’ve been in this role for over 17 years now overseeing rural access and events of all shapes and sizes which have taken place right across Northumberland’s forests. For me, it’s not just about the events but seeing how the public comes together to enjoy and engage with the great outdoors.
“Everything changed the night storm Arwen hit. I was helping to wrap up car rally event and vividly remember driving home the noise of trees snapping was something phenominal It’s an experience I will never forget.
“It is with great credit to all the ground crews working behind the scenes, planning and carrying out a safe and measured approach to the recovery work that we have been able to reopen four of Northumberland's forests for public access this summer (2022).
“I would like to thank visitors for respecting and following all of the latest guidance and signage in the forests. Their patience and understanding has helped to speed up our progress and continued support is vital.
“The ongoing clearance work is very complex. Trees are snapped, uprooted, hanging across access routes and could still fall down at any time. It has taken eight-months so far to clear blocked-up areas that are as dangerous as when the storm hit. Signage in the forests helps not only keep visitors but our crews safe as our clearance work continues into 2023.
“I’m a rural lad born and bred in the Scottish Highlands. When I moved to Northumberland, it just blew me away. It has everything from a stunning coastline to my favourite place in the county - Deadwater fell in Kielder - a true hidden gem. With breath-taking views coast to coast, rugged wildlife and the perfect location for a dramatic sunset there’s nowhere quite like it.
“It is protecting areas like Deadwater Moor that I’m truly passionate about. I want people to enjoy them today while preserving them for future generations. I believe if we all work together and educate visitors as well as locals on how they can make a positive impact we can not only protect but enhance the county.
“The small things really do matter. What a wildcamper might think is just a small fire could lead to a legacy of recovery. Damage to a wildlife’s habitat, for example, could take 10-20 years to recover or in the worst case sanrio wildfires can permanently damage forests. Please stay at designated campsites if you’re visiting this summer and follow each forests’ localised guidance.
“The great news is that Northumberland’s forests are recovering and we are pleased to be able to start welcoming visitors to Hepburn, Wooler Common, Wark, Fourlaws, Falstone, Slaley forests as well as many parts of Kielder Water and Forest Park.
“My personal message to everyone is to experience all the county has to offer but please love Northumberland as your own by respecting the countryside. That way we can all enjoy it together now and in the years to come.
“It is with great pride that myself and my fellow Forest England crews are supporting this year’s campaign. It is an initiative I’m passionate about. Whether that’s picking up that litter you spot while out walking or planning ahead, we can all play our part.”