Minorca Woods: a pathway to positive change
28th Aug 2023
“Against a backdrop of biodiversity loss and issues associated with climate change, the National Forest, and this site as a prime example, offers us an opportunity to all get involved and make a difference. With a change of will and change of attitude in society, we really can do something, no matter how small that contribution. By spending time in nature, by putting something back, we will all benefit and our future together will be far more sustainable.”
This is the view of Stuart Dainton, head of land management and estate at the National Forest Company. Our Minorca Woodlands site is a great example within the Forest of demonstrating the opportunities for positive change, along with the resulting environmental, societal and economic benefits that trees can bring. In a 150-hectare area between the villages of Swepstone and Measham in north west Leicestershire, the National Forest site has seen 77,000 trees planted in the last planting season, creating a new complex of woodlands and parklands, providing vital habitats for wildlife. While unlike its namesake island, our Minorca may not be nestled in the year-round sunshine of the Mediterranean, it does offer many rays of hope for a brighter future.
“Minorca is a wonderful, inspirational story of change,” says Stuart. “We can see that people are getting out there, connecting with nature, valuing the environment and making change happen. During the difficult pandemic days, people started realising the value of sites likes Minorca and the importance of putting trees back into the landscape. We are increasingly understanding all the many benefits of nature in our lives. This is a great example of the National Forest growing our future together.”
The area has a proud heritage from mining, but the practices had taken their toll, scarring the landscape and impacting on nature around the mines. The Minorca site is now in the process of being restored as woodland, and will be connecting with established existing woodland and other habitats nearby to create larger and more connected areas where wildlife can thrive.
The Minorca site is divided into four main areas - north, south, east and west. Last season we planted 53,000 trees and shrubs at Minorca North, in partnership with the FatFace clothing brand, as part of a 75-year pilot project to capture carbon. A carefully considered mix of broadleaved trees and conifers were chosen for their ability to take up carbon quickly, others chosen specifically for the benefits they provide for wildlife. Additionally, at Minorca East, we have planted 22,700 native broadleaved trees and shrubs including field maple, alder, birch, aspen, rowan and many more. This will create a woodland compartment, blending into the existing landscape, with a graded transition from farmland to woodland. Parkland trees and groves are due to be planted in the next planting season.
Donations and additional grant funding have supported the creation of other habitats across the Minorca site, including new parkland, wetland ponds and wildflower seeding areas to attract wintering birds such as tree sparrows, song thrushes, linnets and yellowhammers. A variety of wildflowers have also been sown around the site edge to attract a variety of bees and butterflies, with public footpath and bridlepaths increasing options for off-road walking and riding.
A woodland area in Minorca east is the site of a field trial being undertaken by the University of Nottingham which is interested in the use of biochar in forests. Biochar is a powdered charcoal-like material that aside from helping to return carbon back to woodland soils, also potentially aids plant growth by making nutrients and moisture available to encourage strong root development. The trials are set to be extended to different parts of the Minorca site.
“All of these many activities across Minorca are bringing greater biodiversity to an area that was completely degraded. It tells the story of how we have moved from a legacy of coal mining, and the effect on the environment from the production of fossil fuels, to a situation where we are re-imagining our future. From a black landscape to a green landscape, with the support of local communities and forward-thinking funders/corporate organisations, we are creating a much healthier, environmentally-linked space that allows people to connect with nature in an easy and accessible way. It is a site where people can support by dedicating trees for tree planting, where through agroforestry land is available for animal grazing, where the wildlife is benefiting and where research is happening. It is a transformational story, a site for demonstrating the opportunities for change, for a better future, for us all.”
If you would like to help us continue to grow a greener, healthier and more sustainable future here in the National Forest, then why not consider dedicating a tree? Or if you are a landowner in the Forest and have an interest in tree planting, habitat creation or simply want to see what is possible, then get in touch.
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