This part of the North York Moors National Park is perhaps better known for its heather moorland managed for grouse shooting than its trees, but the valleys are often wooded and it is here, up to the moor edges, where a collective effort is going on to address climate change and the decline in nature. Volunteers, landowners and the National Park are planting trees to replace those lost through disease, and to extend woodlands and create havens for wildlife. The book features inspirational tree planting projects, including the National Park’s tree and wetland scheme around the River Esk to improve water quality and create a habitat supporting a diverse range of species, one of which is the river’s rare freshwater pearl mussels.
Other articles reveal echoes of past human activity in local woodlands. Ancient lime coppices near Loftus are reminders of sustainable forestry methods used to extract fuel and construction materials for homes, mining and industry; alders and sycamores in Glaisdale’s Arncliffe woods once provided the clogs for Victorian farm and factory workers. Historical documents relating to Danby’s Park Wood confirm its use as a medieval deer park. The wood surviving today is a remnant of the extensive woodland in this region 800 years ago.
In more recent history, a mixed conifer forest at the head of Danby Dale, planted by the Macmillan publishing family in 1900, is now a haven for wildlife thanks to generations of careful management by members of Botton village’s original Camphill community. Not far away, the national forests of Dalby, Cropton and Langdale have long been nurtured for wildlife and biodiversity, offering the public a supreme opportunity to get close to nature.
Yet more varied contributions include an old wood with flora typical of ancient woodland near Ingleby Greenhow, long-lost historic fruit varieties grown in an orchard at Ryedale Folk Museum, a secret botanical garden offering organic teas, and the remarkable village trees ‘Adam and Eve’, two aged oaks growing side by side for centuries outside Glaisdale.
Along with practical information, including advice for tree planting and how to source logs from sustainably managed forestry, there are woodland walks, stories, poems, paintings and photographs from local people who have spent their lives loving trees.
The book, while celebrating trees around the North York Moors, serves as a reminder – as the old Chinese proverb goes – that the best time to plant a tree is 30 years ago, and the second best is now!
All About Trees (128 pages, full colour), published by Esk Valley News. For sale in local shops for £3.50, or online (see our store page) for £6 inc. p&p.