Replanting Starts at Swinley Forest

13 January 2012, 05:00 | Updated: 15 January 2012, 12:53

Hundreds of volunteers have helped plant more 4,500 trees as part of the restoration of Swinley Forest after it was ravaged by wildfires during last April's record-breaking temperatures.

The Forestry Commission has started to replant the most severely damaged part of Swinley Forest, in Berkshire, where fires raged for three weeks, forcing local residents to be evacuated from their homes.

More than 60,000 trees will go in the ground over the next few months.

The fire, one of a series of wildfires which broke out across the UK after the warmest April on record, was the worst in Berkshire's history, travelling at 40 miles per hour through 170 hectares (420 acres) of forest and jumping major roads.

Swinley forest restoration map                                                                                      Swinley forest restoration key

This weekend, hundreds of people helped replant the forest with species including oaks, sweet chestnuts, aspen, alder, sequoia, Douglas firs and mountain pines.

The planting will replace plantation forest that burnt in the fire and aims to ensure it continues to be economically sustainable at the same time as increasing the diversity of the tree species and making the wood more resilient to fire and an uncertain future climate.

Nick Hazlitt, forester with the Forestry Commission, said they were also looking to promote wildlife on the site, which is important for ground-nesting birds, dragonflies and damselflies.

"My job is to try to design and establish a robust multi-purpose forest which will be sustainable in the long run, one which is economically sustainable with a continued supply of much-needed sustainable timber and acts as a carbon sink but equally more robust in terms of fire, pests and diseases.

"We're also taking the opportunity to build in some more opportunities for habitat and wildlife.''

Foresters from as far afield as the New Forest came in to help the volunteers which included members of the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service and local people who responded to the fire by offering to help restore the forest.