Shoots have worked with landowners for decades to create woodland, through self-funded plantings, natural regeneration or through accessing grants for planting.
Recently, governmental and media interest in woodland planting has rapidly increased. This especially since the public’s attention has focused on climate change, with trees being seen a substantial way to offset carbon – or at least that the hope.
The government is working towards an annual target of planting 30,000 hectares of trees across the UK (7,000 hectares in England) each year to help us reach net zero carbon by 2050.
To support this drive, on 25 January Defra announced the launch of the England Woodland Creation Offer, a scheme which is open to farmers and land managers with control over the area for planting, for the term of the agreements.
Shoots and their landowners have both used the previous version of this scheme to successfully to create woodlands.
The potential funding is up to £10,000 for each hectare, so it is a meaningful offer to any landowners who will have to commit the land to forestry in the coming years.
Disappointingly there are no payments towards the control of deer and grey squirrel that damage or can even entirely destroy establishing woodland in the first 30 years, with deer browsing and thrashing on new plantings and saplings and squirrels taking over by damaging young trees from bark stripping.
Ironically, there will be support for farms entering the countryside stewardship higher tier scheme this year. However for people taking up the offer for planting under the England Woodland Creation Offer, it will be upto landowners to secure adequate deer and grey squirrel control. So the voluntary efforts of shoots and deer managers controlling these species to protect the trees will be critical.
There is also a payment for supporting public recreation through footpaths and related infrastructure which may need some thought whether all the woodland you might want to create is suitable for public access. Its not a core feature but rather an additional option for when it suits the location and landowner’s aspirations.
These aside, the offer is interesting for many smaller landowners and attractive to DIY shoots because they will take applications for as little as one hectare, which itself can be in smaller bocks.
That means the option to create woodland strips to better connect habitat for game and wildlife is quite feasible, as is extending an existing small cover into the least productive corner of the adjoining field.
This is a welcome point as its more easily fitted into a productive farm that is perhaps cautious of committing to long-term arrangements when the whole agri-environment scheme is currently experiencing a sea change.
And on that matter, of reassurance to landowners is that taking part in this scheme will not block them from entering into the new suite of new Environmental Land Management Schemes at some point in the future. The Forestry Commission and Defra are planning for people to be able to transfer between the England Woodland Creation Offer agreement and the new schemes.
If you have aspirations of some more woodland on your shoot then it’s a great time to talk with your landowner or farmer.
You can read the government’s woodland planting campaign here or jump straight to the core document here if you’d like to read the full details.