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Ancient forests hold the key to a better future

Old Tree
750 year old tree at Ripley Castle

The Prime Minister has announced that the Government backs the Northern Powerhouse scheme for a Northern Forest, to stretch coast to coast from Liverpool to Hull. She’s offered £5.7m to kickstart the project, aiming to plant 50m trees over 25 years.

Yorkshire’s section is called the White Rose Forest, and Harrogate Borough Council, along with other authorities, will be producing its own planting scheme by 2020.

Trees are vital for our future in many ways. They’re good for mental wellbeing, and woodlands are important for exercise, tourism and education. Large woodlands also create local jobs and timber.

Trees are particularly important in our fight against climate change. They take in and hold carbon as they grow, helping to offset our emissions, and they alleviate flooding by slowing the flow of water.

Elsewhere in the UK, the ancient forests of Dalby, Rockingham and Sherwood are already stimulating the development of new forests. And there’s a great potential to do the same here by resurrecting the ancient Royal Forest of Knaresborough.

Knaresborough Forest dates back to the 12th Century. It was a large administrative area managed from Knaresborough and its historic castle for over 750 years, with three large hunting areas, hamlets, churches, mines and quarries.

2020 is an important year, because it will see the 250th anniversary of the historic 1770 Enclosure Act, which led to the disposal of the forest by George III. On June 25 that year, discussions were started at the Crown Inn (Hotel) in Harrogate which led to the establishment of 200 acres of open land that forms the Stray.

Today Knaresborough Forest has a remarkable natural and built heritage, with over 30 attractions to visit, including 15 woodland walks, five historic castles and many other public and commercial activities. The highlights are Knaresborough Castle itself and the many ancient trees in Ripley.

The forest can again be a catalyst for the growth of an area which provides for a quality environment, biodiversity and human enjoyment.

Developing it would create the chance to link three woodland areas with a long pedestrian and cycle route from Ripley to Knaresborough: the Sustrans Greenway, Woodland Trust Nidd Gorge and the Conyngham Hall woodland walk.

Two tree planting projects are already underway. One is managed by the Rotary Club of Harrogate - who have already planted 17,500 trees of a planned 25,000 in Nidderdale. The other is the ‘Yorkshire Tree’ campaign by Taylors of Harrogate and the Woodland Trust.

Zero Carbon Harrogate wants to promote a new approach to the ecological use of our District.

Find out more at a talk on the past, present and future of Knaresborough Forest on Thursday, February 21 at 7.30pm at Friends Meeting House, in Harrogate.


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