Farmers and landowners are being offered the chance to be part of the vast new Northern Forest with heavily subsidized tree-planting incentives.

Over the next 25 years the Woodland Trust and Community Forest Trust are aiming to plant more than 50 million trees from Liverpool to Hull, connecting the community forests of the north of England.

The Woodland Trust will contribute up to 85 per cent of the costs to anyone wanting to plant more than half a hectare of woodland on their land through its MOREwoods scheme.

Emma Briggs, who heads up the Trust’s MOREwoods project, said:

“The area covered by the Northern Forest has below average woodland cover - just 7.6 per cent compared to the UK average of 13 per cent - but we have above average ambition and farmers, smallholders and landowners are an integral part of our vision.

“There are so many reasons to plant trees. They improve soil quality and stability, slow the flow of flooding, provide shelter for crops and livestock, attract pollinators, and can provide an additional cash crop, a source of fuel and a home for wildlife. And with our best ever subsidy there’s no better time to think about planting for a stronger more viable future.”

One landowner who has signed up to be part of the forest is smallholder Mungo Dalglish, who with his sister Iona owns eight hectares of arable land and just under three of woodland classed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in Hartford in the heart of Cheshire.

They are in the process of developing the land according to a blend of permaculture, natural farming and rewilding principles. So far they’ve created a kitchen garden and designed and planted the first phases of their trees - 775 hawthorn, blackthorn, dog rose, hazel, crab apple, oak, rowan, silver birch, elder, dogwood and sweet chestnut covering half a hectare.

Mungo, a massage therapist who runs residential retreats on the site, said: “We have planted because we want to kickstart the regenerative power of this land, to welcome back the wonderful wildness and to learn how we can both support and be supported by it.

"We hope to have a diverse and vibrant landscape with more woodland, agroforestry systems, forest gardens, orchards, meadows and wild areas.

“The MOREwoods scheme attracted us because we too want more woods! Real living woods, not just tree plantations. We want to grow our food mindfully whilst building soil and encouraging wildlife; to model a more holistic approach to agriculture producing healthy, organically-grown fruit and veg for the local community, including as many open-pollinated heritage varieties as possible. We hope to see soil-building, water-resilience, shelter, biodiversity, fuel and food all as a result of planting trees, especially in the name of the Northern Forest.”

The Trust is currently taking applications for planting in the November 2019 - March 2020 planting season. Applicants must be willing to plant currently non-wooded land at a density of between 1,000 and 1,600 trees per hectare. The Trust will provide a wide range of native trees and shrubs, all sourced and grown in the UK to reduce the risk of disease, visit the site to advise on what to plant where and, if eligible, arrange a contractor to plant.

To find out more, contact the Trust’s woodland creation team on 0330 333 5303.