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£1m project to restore ancient woodland in Aire valley
A million-pound project to restore almost 200 acres of valuable ancient woodland, dubbed the equivalent of the Amazon rainforests, moves to the Aire Valley this month.
The Yorkshire Water work starts this autumn to avoid the impact on nesting birds, spring bluebell displays and summer recreation, and is part of a regional project tackling 80 hectares of woodland dating back hundreds of years.
Foreign tree and shrub species planted in the 19th and 20th centuries will be removed and non-native weeds in woodland near Esholt village and at Buck Wood, on the site of the Esholt Wastewater Treatment Works, will be brought under control.
The aim is to restore these ancient woodland areas to ‘upland oakwood’ habitat – characterised by a predominance of oak and birch in the canopy – which is a priority in the Bradford Local Biodiversity Action Plan due to its rarity and high ecological value.
Recreation and catchment manager at Yorkshire Water Geoff Lomas said: “Ancient woodlands are essentially the UK equivalent of the Amazon rainforests.
“It’s hard to stress just how valuable they are both in terms of our heritage and from a biodiversity point of view.
“Once an ancient woodland is lost, it’s gone forever, which is why we’re taking a lead and investing such a significant amount to save these precious sites, and enhance them by planting native species which will help to create ecologically diverse habits that are home to an incredible range of plants, insects and animals.”
Trees and shrubs planted in the previous two centuries, such as rhododendron and laurels, as well as pine, larch and sycamore will be removed, and the project will also tackle ‘invasive species’ such as Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed.
The dense leaves of rhododendron and laurels stop light reaching the woodland floor, which is essential if native bluebells and other ground species are to thrive. It is hoped the work will lead to many more wildlife species moving to the area.
Yorkshire Water is working with the Forestry Commission, Natural England and woodland specialists Scurrah Associates on the project.
It is part of a range of ‘sustainability activities’ at the 750-acre Esholt site – one of Yorkshire Water’s largest sewage treatment works. Other projects include installing £30m of cutting-edge technology to generate electricity to power the plant from the sewage it processes and a ‘fish pass’ to help brown trout to breed.