A long-term plan to restore the Outwoods in Loughborough back to its true and natural historic state has been revealed.
Charnwood Borough Council, which maintains the Outwoods, working alongside the Outwoods Management Committee, will be gradually removing non-native coniferous trees over the next 10 years. Native oak trees will be planted or allowed to grow back naturally over that time, returning the Outwoods to a natural acid oak woodland.
The project is part of a Countryside Stewardship scheme, run by Natural England and the Forestry Commission, and aims to preserve the ecology and habitats found in the Outwoods.
The Council and Outwoods Management Committee want to turn the woodland back to its natural state after parts of the ancient oak woodland were removed in the 1940s and conifer trees were planted as a crop.
The non-native conifers add little benefit to the plants and wildlife in the local area and over the years have stopped native plants from growing and wildlife from flourishing. Returning the ancient woodland to its natural state will be beneficial for the local area.
Native trees such as birch and rowan will quickly start to grow in the area and planting of new oak trees will start in January next year.
Work is due to start in November when around two hectares of conifer trees will be removed at two different locations within the woodland.
The work will take two weeks to complete and the Outwoods car park will be closed while the conifer trees are removed. There will be no access to the woodland from the main road.
Visitors will be able to use alternative parking at Nanpantan Sports Ground and Moat Road and follow the footpath diversions to walk up to the woodland.
Cllr Jenny Bokor, lead member for Loughborough said: “The Outwoods is a real gem which is enjoyed by thousands of people each year. However, it is not the true and natural landscape which it was meant to be.
“Removing the conifers means we can return the Outwoods to a more natural state and how it would have been hundreds of years ago. It is all part of careful woodland management and I can assure people that this is in the long-term best interest for the ancient woodland and will be handled very sensitively.
“It does mean there will be some disruption along the way and trees will have to be removed, but over time the native oak woodland will return to its former glory.”
The Council has worked with Idverde, its open spaces contractor, and the Outwoods Management Committee, the body responsible for overseeing its management, to put the project together.
The Council is working with Tilhill Forestry, which will remove the trees and harvest the timber. The revenue from the timber will be invested back into the Outwoods.
Cllr Hilary Fryer, chair of the Outwoods Management Committee said: “Woodlands need to be managed to ensure they can be enjoyed by future generations.
“The Outwoods is a precious part of the borough and we need to maintain it.
“The scheme will help to protect the woods and encourage wildlife to live in the area for a long time to come.
David Jackson, lead adviser at Natural England said: “We’re pleased to be supporting this project which will see one of the oldest woodland sites in Charnwood restored to its former glory, being native oak woodland.”
The Outwoods is 110 acres of ancient woodland to the south of Loughborough and is one of the oldest surviving woodland sites in Charnwood.
Responsibility of the Outwoods lies with the Outwoods Management Committee which is a separate body to the Council. However, the Council effectively maintains the Outwoods working alongside the committee.
The Outwoods is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) by Natural England, which means it is protected by law to conserve its wildlife and geology. It is also part of the ancient Charnwood Forest and is the most easterly part of the National Forest.
For more information and the latest updates about the project visit www.charnwood.gov.uk/Outwoodsrestoration.