Wild about The Rise of Northwood

Family picking out trees for planting

Unsurprisingly, this woodland won’t happen overnight and will take many years to fully establish; natural regeneration will create stepping stones from one habitat to another with the addition of wildlife corridors such as hedgerows, paths and tracks, encouraging a variety of species to enter Northwood in its early stages. These habitats will gradually connect, allowing wildlife to move more freely. Through careful management and ongoing help and support from the local community and dedicated volunteers, we will continue to nurture this area over the coming years and restore the landscape to its former wooded glory.

A changing landscape

Spring has arrived at The Rise of Northwood woodland regeneration project
Spring views over Northwood woodland regenration
Spring has arrived at The Rise of Northwood woodland regeneration project

The new woodland will evolve mostly by natural regeneration, but we’ve been giving it a helping hand through seed dispersal and tree planting.  Natural woodland regeneration occurs when trees develop naturally from seeds that have fallen from nearby trees or dispersed by animals such as birds and squirrels.

Northwood is also in the early stages of wood pasture creation. This is an open area of rough grassland and patches of scrub, interspersed with larger and open grown trees.  Wood pasture significantly benefits wildlife as it provides a mosaic of habitats which support an immense amount of plants and animals.  When the parkland style trees have grown they will provide shelter for grazing livestock as well as producing woodland products such as timber and fuel.

Natural regeneration

Woodland regeneration is flourishing in WAr Ag 4 field, Northwood
Newly regenerated woodland at Northwood, Slindon
Woodland regeneration is flourishing in WAr Ag 4 field, Northwood

This occurs when trees develop from seeds that have fallen from a nearby tree or woodland.  The movement of these seeds is largely dependent on the seed’s method of dispersal. For example, common ash seeds disperse by wind and can travel up to 100 meters; whereas hawthorn seeds are spread by hungry birds and mammals as they are encased within juicy berries then distributed across a much wider area. Seed dispersal is also dependant on the speed of tree growth and the distance from existing trees and woodland.  

Northwood already has a plentiful seed source and we will encourage the woodland to develop from this.  The natural regeneration areas account for 10 hectares of the project and will gradually join up the smaller pockets of woodland within Northwood and link more habitats together.  This will provide greater opportunities for wildlife such as the dormouse and silver-washed fritillary butterfly as a larger and more robust habitat will provide more food, shelter and nesting opportunities.

Planting

Newly planted trees at Northwood are protected by fenced enclosures
Fences protect newly planted trees at Northwood
Newly planted trees at Northwood are protected by fenced enclosures

Between 2014 and 2016 the local community have planted over 13,000 trees in Northwood. We’ve only planted species that are native to the area; including English oak, beech, field maple, whitebeam, yew and hazel, as well as many shrub like species such as hawthorn, spindle and blackthorn.

All 21-native species of trees planted reflect those present in the neighbouring woodland. Due to the high population of browsing animals such as deer and rabbit which damage young trees, temporary deer height fencing has been erected and protective tree shelters have been used.

Wood Pasture 

Cattle graze newly planted wood pasture at Northwood
Cattle grazing in wood pasture with newly planted trees
Cattle graze newly planted wood pasture at Northwood

45 hectares of Northwood is developing into an open habitat of rough grazed grassland and patches of scrub interspersed with larger and open grown trees known as wood pasture.  Traditionally domestic livestock such as cattle and sheep as well as deer and smaller mammals graze the pasture and take shelter under the larger trees.  Historically woodland products such as firewood and building materials were harvested from the established trees through a process called pollarding where the tree is periodically cut above the reach of browsing animals and allowed to regrow until a suitable size again. Wood pasture significantly benefits wildlife as it provides a mosaic of habitats which support an immense amount of plants and animals.

Carbon sequestration

Low winter sun shines over a wintry Northwood landscape
Low winter sun shines over Northwood
Low winter sun shines over a wintry Northwood landscape

Trees provide lots of benefits to wildlife, but did you know that by planting them, we’re also helping to tackle climate change? When fossil fuels such as coal are burned, carbon that has been locked away for millions of years is released into the air.  Carbon dioxide emissions are a major contributor to climate change and too much in the atmosphere has caused the Earth’s temperature to rise.  Broadleaved trees such as oak play a vital role in balancing the earths atmospheres as they can absorb carbon dioxide to produce oxygen, during a process known as photosynthesis.  By planting more trees, we can support the reversal of global warming and protect our environment.