Hardknott Forest is located at the northern end of Duddon Valley in the Lake District National Park. The remote location and difficult road access means that timber production is not financially viable. After close consultation with local people and organisations, Forestry England decided not to continue productive forestry at Hardknott. This created a unique opportunity to restore the entire 630 hectare plantation to native woodland.
The University of Leeds and Forestry England have worked together since 2004 to restore Hardknott Forest to native woodland. The restored native woodlands will enhance biodiversity, store large amounts of carbon that will help mitigate climate change and provide opportunities for people to enjoy a wild, upland woodland.
We want to create a woodland that is as natural as possible, so we let natural processes do most of the work for us. If conditions are right, trees will reseed naturally – oak, birch, holly, willow and rowan are all returning to the forest. Non-native trees are also regenerating, so we remove these to prevent them from dominating the new native woodlands. Some rarer native tree species no longer have a nearby seed source, so we plant these tree species to help restoration.
Our work is informed by ongoing research. Monitoring the recovery of the forest and associated wildlife is a fascinating part of the project. We study how fast native trees are returning, how quickly they grow and how much carbon they store.
All our work is carried out with the help of local volunteers, school children and students. If you would like to get involved, please get in touch.