YDMT Woodland Management Programme

In a recent SWOG webinar, Mike Appleton told us about the work of the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT) and How to Reduce the Use of Plastics in Woodland. Here he describes a new project that supports owners to get more small woodlands into active management in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Nidderdale and the Forest of Bowland.

In the 25 years since YDMT was formed, it has supported the planting of around 1.6 million native broadleaf trees, mostly in a scattered mosaic of woodlands, where farmers and landowners have sought help planting up field corners and ghylls, or to create habitat on unproductive areas of land.

“Smaller woodlands have the potential to be mighty marvels, as a biodiverse patchwork quilt across the region, but we need to ensure they progress to full maturity, for amenity, for a landowner’s needs and especially for biodiversity,” said YDMT Woodland Officer Mike Appleton. “There is an appetite from landowners and farmers to manage them, and demonstrable financial reasons for doing so.”

The result is a new YDMT Woodland Management programme, intended to enhance this patchwork mosaic across the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Nidderdale, and beyond, into parts of Cumbria and the Forest of Bowland. It will prepare small woodland management plans for landowners, and offer grants for management tasks such as thinning, underplanting and repairing boundaries.

“The scheme is innovative,” said Mike. “Nobody else is focusing on smaller woodlands, which could otherwise be forgotten. Before this, there wasn’t funding to write a management plan. Now, landowners can access a service they’d otherwise have to seek expensive specialist contractors for. YDMT grants will enable the work and biodiversity management to be done.”

The initial focus will be on YDMT’s 25 supporter woodlands, each privately owned by farmers, landowners and residents.

“Because we helped plant them, we have a duty to return to ensure they’re doing okay,” Mike said. “Once they’ve survived their first ten years and become established, what comes next? We’ll speak to the landowners, walk the land with them, discover what they want and write a management plan.”

Thornbrook Wood is one of five pilot schemes already underway.

“Thornbrook is a dense, mixed woodland of around three hectares, planted 18 years ago. As we walked it, we realised that natural regeneration wasn’t taking place because the canopy was too closed for the understory to develop,” Mike explained.

“The management plan separates the woodland into parcels, making recommendations such as the removal of plastic shelters, securing boundaries, and a little thinning to get that undergrowth going. It’s a light touch, making recommendations rather dictating what must be done.

“We’ll return in June with our woodland trainees to mark trees for felling, to create space for natural regeneration. The landowner can opt to fell them themselves or access YDMT’s Woodland Management Grants fund, to bring in specialists.”

YDMT can also help provide labour, in the form of volunteers, officers and trainees.

It is hoped that 50 small woodlands will be brought into active management over the next three years. “As part of the project, any new woodland we plant will have a basic baseline survey done, which we or the landowner will repeat every five years. We’ll also engage community groups and volunteers, to help actively manage the woodland,” Mike added.

The scheme has attracted funding from the Peter Sowerby Foundation, a charity established in 2011 by North Yorkshire GP Dr Peter Sowerby.

We’re keen to hear from landowners interested in bringing woodlands of under three hectares under active management in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Nidderdale and the Forest of Bowland.  Contact Mike: [email protected]