Bluebells bloom again as woodland is restored

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BLUEBELLS that were dormant in the soil for up to 100 years at a Peak District beauty spot have been revived by a conservation project.

The Forestry Commission is working to recreate lost woodlands in the Upper Derwent Valley, around Ladybower, Derwent and Howden reservoirs.

It began nearly 15 years ago, when foresters began an experiment to encourage natural tree regeneration by fencing off two hectares of previously grazed land in an area known as the ‘West End’, above Derwent Reservoir.

The land, part of the Dark Peak Site of Special Scientific Interest, was once home to ancient woodland, where native trees such as ash, rowan, oak, alder and birch once covered the valley sides.

But all that remained were a few bedraggled old trees. Now a vibrant mixed woodland has taken root and flowers like bluebells and wood violet have also returned.

Forester Albin Smith, who began the initiative in 1998, said: “About 95 per cent of the trees come from natural regeneration after being seeded by the few older specimens in the area. We are thrilled by the scheme’s success. Wildlife ranging from small mammals to birds to insects has been boosted and we will also be doing a bird survey this year to further gauge the project’s impact.”

Native trees cover just one per cent of the Peak – one of the lowest figures for any UK national park – making expansion of such habitats a priority. By using natural regeneration to revive the once barren hillside the unique local genetic strain of the trees was also preserved.

Foresters also planted additional species like aspen to add to diversity.