Many many years ago, before Covid even thought about humans, even before the Arkle beck threw its toys over its banks in spectacular fashion, a couple of folk had an idea to renature their bits of Arkengarthdale. “Let’s do some habitat restoration”… “Lets plant some trees”…Let’s…” (well you get the idea) and so The Cluster was born.
In those intervening years we have gone through many ideas, many plans and even more meetings. We’ve had a few dead ends, a lot of changes of direction, a few disappointments but also many positive meetings with many folk who have almost all been right behind what we hope to achieve on The Cluster.
We have organised and attended lots of meetings, many on-site, some in our living rooms via Zoom et al and even one at the The Tan Hill Inn. We started planning our Fremington Edge planting via the English Woodland Grant Scheme (EWGS). That morphed into the English Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) so we jumped through the hoops for that. Then it was suggested that we look at the Growing Back Greener (GBG) grant scheme which offers a bit more flexibility for planting and financing, but less money. We have been working with a chap from the National Park YDNPA (as well as many others), for a few years on these various schemes and he has had the onerous task of keeping us all up to speed with them and what they were offering, as well as doing all the behind the scenes ‘stuff’ that any planting scheme can’t (or shouldn’t) go ahead without. The ‘planting’ had to be planned very carefully. We’re not planting ‘woodland’ in the traditional sense, but a mosaic which has been described as “quasi woodland/wood pasture/scrub” which historically is exactly how it was. We needed to have open areas where the ground flora was still good and which will become valuable sheltered habitats once the trees have grown a bit. We decided to plant a montane species, creeping willow which occurred here many years ago, on the higher ground. We decided to plant some yew which has a historical association with the area. They will join the few ancient yews which still exist on Fremington Edge, some of which are thought to be a thousand years old. We will plant more densely lower down to simulate the colonisation which would occur naturally but which will also help with our wider natural flood management efforts. We had to take into account modern threats to trees, climate change, introduced diseases etc and try and create a resilient scheme that stands the best chance of success in our rapidly changing climate situation.
‘Right tree, right place’ is an adage often heard. In addition to the above, the wrong place might be on archaeologically valuable sites, of which there are many on Fremington Edge, on sites where it may adversely core populations of certain bird species, where it might adversely affect important ground flora, where it might be visually ‘inappropriate’ and many many more that my brain can’t recall currently. All these aspects have to be covered, so that what is basically your money, is been spent wisely and that our actions will be of an overall very positive benefit to you, but more importantly to the local biodiversity (without which we are all the poorer and more vulnerable). This process might not work all the time, but it’s as much as we can currently do to make sure we are doing the right thing. Therefore a big thank you must go to ‘our chap from the Parks’ for getting us to where we are at today, as well as everybody else who has so far been involved and worked so hard to get this scheme off the ground (or indeed ‘in’ the ground).
So where are we at today?
Well the work on the ground has now started. Hoorah!
First job will be to do some ground levelling works to repair where scree slopes have slipped. These have all been approved by the YDNPA planning department. This will improve our access on Fremington Edge so we can plant the trees more easily but more importantly we will be able to access those trees to help look after them on what is a very difficult site. It will also make the removal of the tree shelters in a few years a lot easier. Unfortunately we have had to go with plastic shelters.There just isn’t a reliable alternative as yet. Believe me, we looked and looked for an alternative but in the end all parties felt plastic was the only current viable option. We are trialling a few ‘TreeHugger’ shelters which are made of cotton and pine resin to see how these cope on such an exposed site. We are removing the old fencing along the boundaries which is to be replaced with brand spanking new, which will enable us to keep stock out until the trees are established and to keep rabbits out (and in, hence a lot of rabbit control will be taking place in the near future).
We will try and keep posting on how things are progressing (with plenty of pix) but if anyone wants a closer look or has any questions etc, please get in touch (via the comments) and we will happily answer any questions/concerns.