Woodlands to be celebrated through Lottery investment

Posted: 7.10.15

The woodlands of the South Pennines are fragmented and scarce, only covering about four percent of the total area, but they are a valuable ecological and historical asset. In this area there are many patches of locally distinctive oak clough woodland, found in sheltered upland valleys or cloughs. Much of this woodland, including Hardcastle Crags near Hebden Bridge and Townley Park in Burnley, is open to the public and enjoyed by many.
Around a quarter of all the woodland is classed as ancient semi-natural woodland dating back to at least the 1600s. People have made their livelihoods from these areas for centuries, through traditional management practices such as coppicing, charcoal production and the use of horses for hauling logs. As a celebration of this heritage many of these methods are being revived today. They may be labour intensive but they still represent some of the most effective ways in which to manage woodland in an upland area.
Important for their historical relevance, with many archaeological sites to be found, woodlands are also home to many types of animals and plants seen in the original ‘wildwoods’ of centuries ago. And yet, despite their significance, they remain under-recorded, under-appreciated and as a result under-protected.
To rectify this situation the Celebrating Our Woodland Heritage project has been launched to investigate, record and celebrate the ‘hidden’ heritage of South Pennines woodlands. Managed by Pennine Prospects, the rural regeneration company for the South Pennines, the project has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
Development funding of £40,000 has been awarded as part of the initial support to help Pennine Prospects develop plans to apply for a full grant later this year. If successful Pennine Prospects will be able to employ a woodland heritage officer to carry out survey work of woodland with volunteers and to use woodlands as the backdrop for active engagement in the natural environment using techniques pioneered in ‘forest schools’.
“We want to work with partners and woodland owners who see the potential to inspire young people with our South Pennines woodland story but we simply just don’t know enough about our woodlands,” said Pam Warhurst CBE, Chair of Pennine Prospects.
There is evidence of woodland crafts and former industry buried deep in the woodland. Hywel Lewis, a member of Black Bark a woodland co-operative working for the health of local woodlands, has been selected following a national competition, to become a research scholar to discover more.
“Studying the history of woodland can help woodland managers. For example, if charcoal hearths are found in a wood, this would be a strong indication that those woods had been coppiced, which might influence a decision to reinstate coppice woodland today,” explained Hywel, who is working with the University of Bradford School of Archaeological Sciences and with funding from the Heritage Consortium.
If the funding application is successful the Celebrating Our Woodlands will be a three year project taking place across the South Pennines.

Yorkshire Water United Utilities Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council National Farmers Union
South Pennines Association Lancashire County Council Pennine Heritage Kirklees Council Calderdale Council
Bradford District Council Northern Rail Natural England Environment Agency The National Trust