New woodlands planned for Cumbria

The Westmorland Gazette: A helicopter delivering one of more than 1,000 loads of fencing materials and young trees to the high fells above United Utilities' Haweswater and Thirlmere reservoirs A helicopter delivering one of more than 1,000 loads of fencing materials and young trees to the high fells above United Utilities' Haweswater and Thirlmere reservoirs

THOUSANDS of saplings have been airlifted high on to the Cumbrian fells to create new woodland.

A helicopter has flown 58,000 young trees and 28 miles (46km) of timber posts to Mardale Common, Swindale, Whelpside and Helvellyn screes.

United Utilities is planting the saplings as part of a project to improve water quality in streams and rivers. The company said the 740-acre scheme would slow the run-off of rainwater and stabilise the fellsides.

It hopes that will prevent erosion, improve water quality and lower the cost of water treatment in the streams and rivers which feed the Haweswater and Thirlmere reservoirs.

Between them, the reservoirs supply more than a third of all the drinking water in the North West.

Ultimately, the idea is to work with the environment to help keep customer bills low.

Project officer Vicky Bowman said: “We will be planting trees up the gills and on steep vulnerable slopes to create scrub woodland in order to reduce erosion and create a source of seeds for future vegetation to establish.

“It's all part of an innovative land stewardship scheme which will eventually lead to a healthier, more natural and bio-diverse landscape.”

United Utilities owns more than 16,000 hectares (40,000 acres) of land in the Lake District, which amounts to around eight per cent of the national park area.

The woodland is made up of locally-sourced trees including oak, rowan, birch, alder and willow, together with small seeded species such as juniper, hawthorn, blackthorn, guelder rose and holly.

The RSPB, which holds tenancies of two farms at Haweswater, welcomed United Utilities’ landscape tree planting initiative and is planting an additional 5,000 trees in Swindale Farm.

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Site manager at Haweswater Lee Schofield said: “The new woodland will have long-term benefits for a range of wildlife that have suffered declines in recent decades, providing a home for red squirrels and woodland birds such as pied flycatchers and redstarts.”

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