25 July 2014

Work to restore the historic landscape of an environmentally significant valley in the Peak District National Park is due to begin next month.

During August and part of September a conifer plantation that was originally planted as a crop in the Burbage Valley will be removed. It will then be replaced by oak trees and wet woodland, and restoration to heathland.

Whilst the felling of the conifers is taking place, the path to the woods will be temporarily closed and walkers will be diverted along the ridge above the plantation or past the Iron Age fort. A new path will be created once the work is completed to allow full access to ramblers.

Cllr Isobel Bowler, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure said: “I am aware of just how much everyone values the beautiful countryside in and around our city. We have worked closely with our partner organisations, who take their responsibility to conserve the environment and associated wildlife very seriously. This work will restore the historic landscape to the Burbage Valley and encourage wildlife to flourish in the area.”

When the work is completed there will be an overall gain of 8.58 hectares of Site of Special Scientific Interest habitat through the restoration of European dry heath and 20.26 hectares of upland oak woodland. These will provide the foundation over the long term to develop into a Special Area of Conservation of old sessile oak woods. This is in line with the Sheffield Moors Masterplan (2013-28).

Work on the complete scheme should be completed by the end of March 2015. The work will only be carried out during the week to reduce the amount of disturbance to the majority of the National Park’s visitors at weekends.

The conifer plantation was planted in the early 1970’s as a crop, but it has not been managed effectively and has resulted in a lot of trees blowing over and they now represent a fire risk.

By replanting with native broadleaf species, encouraging natural regeneration and restoring heathland, it is intended to increase the wildlife, improve the landscape and encourage enjoyment for all. The project will bring the site back into positive conservation management in line with the surrounding heathland, currently managed by the National Trust.

Dave O’Hara, Dove Stone Site Manager on behalf of Dark Peak Nature Improvement Area and RSPB added: “The Burbage woodland scheme will transform dense conifer forest plantation to a diverse mix of natural woodland and heath. It is a truly inspiring project that will give long-term benefits to wildlife, the landscape of the valley, and public enjoyment of this much-loved area.

“There has been detailed and thorough preparation for the project in terms of both ecological investigation and consultation with local people and user groups. The Dark Peak Nature Improvement Area Partnership look forward with real anticipation to seeing work get underway.”

The project forms part of the larger Dark Peak Nature Improvement Area (NIA); one of 12 nationally grant funded schemes. It has five broad objectives involving blanket bog, heathland, grassland, woodland and access and recreation.

Ted Talbot, the National Trust’s Countryside Manager for the Peak District commented: “The National Trust is pleased to see that the sensitive removal of the conifer plantation in the upper Burbage Valley is going to happen under the expert eye of Sheffield City Council’s Woodlands Team. As the custodians of the moorland around the plantation and the ever-popular Longshaw Estate and Padley Gorge, we know how much better the new native woodland will be in this area, for both people and wildlife.

“The restoration will reduce the current fire risks to the surrounding moors and even our grazier seems happy as he will no longer have to fight his way through the dense conifers chasing errant sheep who don’t want rounding up!

“There will be disruption to the area, but it’s not every day you get the chance to restore a National Park Landscape on this scale. This is an opportunity to see some really interesting land management operations first hand and I look forward to following the process.”

Ends

Notes for editors:
The Dark Peak NIA is a partnership and has the support of 10 organisations with a strong track record of delivery for people and wildlife – private business and statutory bodies, local authorities and user representative groups as well as the voluntary sector. These include the RSPB, Sheffield City Council, Moors for the Future, United Utilities, Sheffield Wildlife Trust, Peak District National Park Authority, British Mountaineering Council, National Trust and Natural England.

For further information please contact Warwick Toone, Media Relations Officer on 07764 659182 or 0114 205 3546. E-mail: warwick.toone@sheffield.gov.uk. For out of office media enquiries ring 07711 153995.