New woodlands covering an area the size of Durham’s historic city centre have been created as part of a four-year scheme to reconnect forest networks.

The Durham Woodland Revival project also saw 2km of hedgerows introduced or restored across County Durham, a further 645 trees planted outside of wooded areas and ten hectares of ancient woodland brought into active management.

Led by Durham County Council and supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the £820,000 project focused on the county’s most populated areas and encouraged residents, landowners and contractors to nurture ancient woodlands in their local area.

Across the four-year programme hundreds of children and adults took part in community tree planting events; training and equipment were provided to more than 50 landowners and 12 community groups to help them care for woodlands; and an archaeological project uncovered fascinating details about County Durham’s ancient woodlands.

Other partners involved in the programme included the Forestry Commission, Living Woods, Northwoods, Wear Rivers Trust and the Woodland Trust.

Cllr Mark Wilkes, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and climate change, said: “Woodland areas are an incredibly important natural resource, helping to tackle climate change, improving the quality of the air we breathe and providing valuable habitats for wildlife. Furthermore, they provide a place for our communities to reconnect with nature and escape the hustle and bustle of daily life, especially in more populated urban areas.

“That’s why I am so proud of what the Durham Woodland Revival project has achieved over the last four years. By working together with our partners and inspiring residents and businesses to get involved, the team has made great strides in creating and preserving forest networks across the county.

“Equally importantly, the project has helped to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for woodlands among people of all ages. I’m really looking forward to seeing the forestry skills we have shared continue to be put into use in the years ahead.”

Helen Featherstone, Director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Safeguarding our natural heritage is one of our key priorities. To mitigate the impacts of climate change, it is vital we value, rebuild and protect our woodlands and forest networks and that is why, thanks to National Lottery players, we are very proud to have supported the Durham Woodland Revival project.

“This important work has brought neglected areas back into wonderful condition by working with landowners, volunteers and schools to plant trees, develop skills and connect local people with the natural heritage that is right on their doorstep.”

Key achievements from the Durham Woodland Revival include:

  •  76 hectares of new woodland created, including two large new woods at West Cornforth and Frankland planted by Woodland Trust.
  • 2km of hedgerow planted and restored.
  • 645 trees planted outside of woodlands.
  • 10 hectares of ancient woodland brought into active management and funding secured to manage Durham County Council’s 1,800 hectare woodland estate.
  • More than 1km of footpaths improved in seven woods and new interpretation panels installed at Causey Arch and Steeley Hill Wood at Cornsay Colliery.
  • 120 children and 70 adults engaged in tree planting events.
  • 53 landowners supported with training, advice and funding to care for the woodlands they own.
  • One 12-month forestry traineeship completed and one two-year apprenticeship to be completed in July.

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The Northern Echo:

  •  Eight young offenders trained in woodland management skills through Skill Mill.
  •  12 community groups supported with training, tools, equipment and activities.
  •  More than 50 volunteers trained in skills such as chainsaw use, hedgelaying, charcoal burns, coppicing and risk assessments.
  • 11 volunteers trained and two woodlands researched as part of a woodland archaeology project. To find out more about Durham Woodland Revival, visit Ends Notes to Editors: Please find a photograph attached to accompany this press release.