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First National Forest Woodlands Awards presented at an awards ceremony at Staunton Harold

Monday, 5th December 2016

Attendees at the Awards event outside Staunton Harold Hall.

The inaugural National Forest Woodland Awards were presented by Sir William Worsley, Chair of the National Forest Company, at an event held at Staunton Harold Hall, near Ashby de la Zouch.

As part of the celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of The National Forest, the National Forest Company (NFC) announced earlier in the year the establishment of a new award to recognise outstanding woodland creation and management within the 200 square miles of the Forest.

Three categories of award were offered: woodland creation, for woodlands aged up to ten years; woodland management, for woodlands aged over ten years; community woodland management, where local communities are involved in management.

19 entries were received across the three categories and the judges commented on the high standard of the entries. They said: “The range and quality of achievement, and the enthusiasm and interest of agents and landowners came across very strongly. The woodlands are testament to the achievements of The National Forest in its first 25 years and the tremendous contribution that it has made to the regeneration of the area.”

In presenting the awards, Sir William Worsley said: “A forest is not just about the trees, but all the land that goes with it as well. At the beginning of The National Forest, it was quite a risk to plant up land with trees, and all credit to those who took that risk, and have become part of the great venture that is The National Forest. Landowners have had to learn new approaches to land management, but every one of the woodlands put forward for the awards demonstrates the enthusiasm of landowners and communities in the Forest to plant and maintain their woodlands.

“We’re still planting trees, but managing the woodlands is a big task for us all. We’re going to exceed the government’s targets by achieving 66% of woods in active management by March 2017, and my challenge to us all working in The National Forest is that we get 80% of all our woodlands into management by the end of 2020.”

He concluded: “Thank you for all your hard work over the last 25 years. The National Forest is a real success story and it is your work that has achieved that.”

In the end, four winners were chosen (two joint winners in the management category) and three special commendations were presented.  The winners received greenwood stools crafted in The National Forest by Peter Wood of Greenwood Days and all entrants were given National Forest coasters made by Just Wood of Burton upon Trent. 

Community management award:  Community Education Enterprise projects (CEEP), Hall Farm, Ashby de la Zouch. Steve Berrill received the award on behalf of CEEP, an organisation that gives opportunities to members of society who may otherwise miss out. They work with young adults and adults with learning and social difficulties and train them in skills like forestry, charcoal making, gardening and animal husbandry.

Woodland creation award:  Grangewood Changing Landscapes Scheme, Netherseal. This highly impressive scheme, both in terms of scale and design, is a true demonstration of attractive design and high quality implementation in The National Forest.

Woodland management award:  joint winners – Catton Estate, South Derbyshire and Peppa Wood, Linton. The extensive woodlands at Catton Estate have been managed for many years and for multiple purposes. Thinnings and low-grade timber are used for the estate’s biomass boiler and the woodlands provide an attractive backdrop for the events held on the estate.

Peppa Wood is an exemplar of how to manage a small woodland to maximum benefit: every bit of timber felled at Peppa Wood is used to make new products. The woodland owner, Darren Abell, spoke movingly about how important the woodland is to his family, in particular how it helps his wife who suffers with mental illness.

Darren’s first job in forestry was at Catton Estate, so it was fitting that the two very contrasting woodlands – in terms of scale and ambition – shared the management award. Darren said: “I’m so pleased to receive this award and it makes it even more special to share it with Robin Neilson of Catton Hall – my first boss!” 

Paul Milner of Markfield, Bill Cove of the National Trust at Calke Park and Dr Sheila Smith of Swannington, each received special commendation for their innovation, commitment and community involvement respectively.

Since 1991, when the first trees were planted for the new National Forest, over 7,000 hectares of new woodlands have been created, increasing woodland cover in the Forest area from 6% to over 20%, roughly double the national average. Over half the National Forest woodlands are now under active management, as landowners increasingly recognise the importance of looking after the woods once they are planted.

Management of woodlands is important in order to:

·         produce the best quality timber and a renewable energy source;

·         keep the rides (pathways and trails) clear from undergrowth and invasive trees so that people can walk through the woods easily and enjoy spending their time there;

·         open up the canopy to encourage wildflowers and wildlife;

·         make the trees more resilient to pests and diseases and help mitigate the effects of climate change.

Simon West, Head of Forestry for the NFC, said:  “Although there are a number of other woodland awards, this is the first to exclusively recognise top quality work within The National Forest. Hundreds of new woodlands have been planted here over the last 25 years – and with our partners we are still planting more – but the importance of good management cannot be stressed highly enough. Our landowners and communities in the Forest are doing some excellent work, and it seemed fitting, as we reach our first quarter century, to establish an award scheme to recognise and promote the quality of much that is taking place here in the Forest.”