Natural woodland plans for Thirlmere Forest

The Westmorland Gazette: Thirlmere reservoir and woodland (Picture: Steve Barber) Thirlmere reservoir and woodland (Picture: Steve Barber)

LAKE District foresters are going back to their roots by turning plantations of commercial trees back into natural woodland.

Experts working for water company United Utilities have re-thought plans for Thirlmere Forest in a bid to protect and improve it as a natural habitat.

The forest was one of the first red squirrel reserves in the country and is already a haven for wildlife like deer and birds.

But most of the trees are commercial conifers planted by reservoir builders to impprove water quality.

“This is a beautiful and rich environment for wildlife and for people,” said forester Paul Clavey. “We want to make it even better by returning more of it to natural woodland, which is just as good for water quality, if not better.”

He went on: “For instance, much of Thirlmere Forest is made up of larch trees and though we have no problem at the moment, larch is at risk from disease which can also affect other species of trees and plants.

“It makes sense to bring our plans for felling some of the larch forward. That way we will be better able to control the disease if it arrives here.

“We have a responsibility to the communities we work in and wanted people to know that we will be felling pure stands of larch and thinning larch from other areas.”

United Utilities, which owns the forest, has long been trying to improve biodiver-sity at Thirlmere by introducing more areas of mixed, native woodland.

“Our plan is to replace more and more of the trees we fell with a mix of native, mainly broadleaved species which will eventually look much more natural and support a wider range of wildlife. In the long-term this will make Thirlmere an even prettier place,” said Paul.

At the same time, the company is creating new areas of scattered woodlands on high fells by planting new native saplings.

The felling programme is a normal forestry operation and money from selling the timber is re-invested in projects on estates at Thirlmere and Haweswater.

The changes have been approved by the Forestry Commission.

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