Volunteers pine for the return of traditional trees.
RETURNING the landscape in a remote corner of Northumberland to how it is likely to have looked thousands of years ago has caught the imagination of experts.
Work began on the Kielderhead Wildwood Project last year as a joint venture between Northumberland Wildlife Trust and Forestry England.
Supported by a PS354,000 National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, the aim of the five-year project is to establish native upland woodland on 94 hectares of open moorland along two kilometres of the Scaup Burn, a tributary of the White Kielder waterway which runs into Kielder reservoir.
The site is adjacent to Kielderhead national nature reserve and Northumberland Wildlife Trust's Whitelee nature reserve - at 1,500 hectares, it is the biggest wildlife trusts reserve in England. So far, 70 volunteers have helped plant 12,000 trees, with another 39,000 to come, all grown from seed collected in Northumberland.
Seed has been taken from trees - some up to 170 years old - on William's Cleugh, a tributary of the Scaup Burn, which are believed to be remnants of the area's original Scots pine.
The planting is returning Scots pine, alder, birch, mountain ash, willow, rowan, bird cherry, holly, hawthorn and juniper, with a mix of open spaces and glades to create a variety of habitats.
Wildwood project co-ordinator Heinz Traut said that it was hoped to encourage recolinisation of the area by a range of wildlife species, with captive-bred water voles already freed along the Scaup Burn, pine marten being seen again in Northumberland, and two golden eagles from a Borders reintroduction spotted roosting in the area. On Monday, a free public event at the Literary and Philosophical Society in Newcastle from 1pm-4pm will examine the wider aspects of the project and the concept of wildness.
The event has been organised by Tony Williams, associate professor of creative writing at Northumbria University. Contributors will include Northumbria University's Matthew Kelly, professor of modern history; Ysanne Holt, professor of arts and visual culture; Dr Mike Jeffries, from the Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences; Ian Convery, professor of environment and society at the University of Cumbria; and Heinz Traut.
Tony Williams said: "We will be looking at what is meant by wildness and the relationship of people with the landscape, and what it might look like in 50 years time.
"Britain is quite a small country and there is not much wildness out there. One of its appeals is that it is something away from the everyday human world."
The longer-term vision of the wildwood project is to extend it to cover an area of 435 hectares.
A drone will take pictures of the project area and this will be repeated in 10 years' time to plot the changes. Wildlife will also be monitored at intervals to record the levels of recolonisation.
It was on the Scaup Burn that evidence was found that beavers were living on the Tyne catchment 400 years later than had been previously believed.
A piece of birch wood which had been gnawed by a beaver was found sticking out of the eroding bankside of the burn.
The wood has been radiocarbon dated, showing that it was chewed in the 14th century.
A Scots pine trunk buried in the bank of the burn also proved to be 7,000 years old and peat cores taken in the area showed pollen across 5,000 years.
Steven Lipscombe, Kielderhead wild-wood officer, said: "So much of conservation is about trying to protect what we have and trying to make sure we don't lose things.
"This project is about trying to create things and taking a look at what we're missing, what we could have in the future and taking the opportunity to put something back out there."
Alnwick-based Alan Fentiman has made a short film on the efforts of volunteers working on the Kielderhead Wildwood project. It can be viewed at www.nwt.org.uk/wildwood There is no requirement to book for Monday's event, but you can register at www.eventbrite.com (search for Exploring the Wildwood).
The Scaup Burn
Tree-planting volunteers are helping to encourage recolonisation of wild areas
Saplings ready to plant as part of the Kielderhead Wildwood Project