Schoolchildren will plant the first of 660,000 trees in England’s largest forest for more than 30 years tomorrow.
Pupils from Glendale Middle School in Wooler will help to begin the creation of the forest at Doddington North Moor.
The new forest will provide significant benefits to the North-East economy, including short and long-term employment on site and a future timber supply to wood processors, including A&J Scott, which employs almost 150 people at Wooperton.
The trees to be planted at the site have been provided by regional nurseries – Cheviot Trees, near Berwick, and Trees Please in Corbridge.
Environmental benefits include the restoration of a rare peat mire on the site and the extension of a red squirrel buffer zone.
Project manager Andy Howard said he had been staggered by the level of public support, with real enthusiasm for the way the scheme will create new mountain bike trails, opportunities for forest education and improved access to a bouldering site.
Around 65,000 trees will be planted by the end of April, with the remainder following over the next two winter tree-planting seasons. Planting could not start earlier because Doddington was only approved on November 30 last year and preparation work, including clearing vegetation, putting up deer fences and mounding, had to be carried out – and was delayed by the Beast from the East.
Planting teams from the Forestry Workers’ Co-operative, in Pathhead, southern Scotland, will start work immediately after the ceremony.
The trees planted in the coming weeks will be mainly Sitka spruce, but also oak, birch, alder, Western red cedar and Noble fir. Next winter, the planting will be Sitka spruce, Scots pine, birch, aspen, oak and alder.
Mr Howard said: “As the children prepare to get the tree planting under way, I reflect upon how our actions create a legacy for them.
“I hope Doddington can be a blueprint to help develop the resources future generations will need and to restore and maintain some of the biodiversity that mankind’s actions might otherwise have caused us to lose.
“This is a hugely important and symbolic day, both for me personally and the forestry industry – and probably the proudest day of my working life.”
Mr Howard, whose two children will also plant trees on Friday, said he was delighted that local MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan and North-East MEP Paul Brannen – both strong supporters of the project – were attending.
Stuart Goodall, chief executive of forestry trade body Confor, added: “This is a tremendous day for forestry in England. Andy has had to work his way through a really challenging set of complex rules for forest creation, designed for a different generation.
“The industry has learned a lot from Doddington – most of all, that we can create large, attractive new forests with a mixture of species that benefit our economy, environment and local communities. Andy really has broken the mould and others following in his wake will reap the rewards of his efforts at Doddington.”
The project has been made supported by Durham-based Forest Carbon via investment in the carbon dioxide that will be captured by the forest – likely to be 92,670 tonnes of CO2 over 65 years.
Forest Carbon turns this capture into carbon credits for businesses taking voluntary action on their own carbon footprint. Without investment in carbon credits, the woodland, and many others like it, would not be able to proceed.