County Durham project

South Field, Edmundbyers, County Durham

Planned new native woodland in the North Pennines

Volunteer opportunities

  • Tree planting from Autumn 2021 onwards
  • Learning woodland planning and management techniques from Autumn 2020
  • Learning and practicing drystone walling and stone building techniques from Autumn 2020

To get involved: Use our Contact Us page


Max Adams and his partner, Sarah Annesley, are in the process of buying a 15-acre parcel of sheep pasture.  South Field lies at about 750ft just south of the Derwent Reservoir and close to the small village of Edmundbyers in the North Pennines AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).  As the aerial photograph (courtesy of Bing Maps) shows, it consists of a rough square of three fields, bounded on two sides by drystone walls and on the third, the northwest, by the Burnhope burn.  The two fields that front onto the main road slope gently to the northwest, before a steepish naturally scalloped slope drops onto a haugh: the flat, seasonally flooded burn edge.  There are, thus, three distinct topographies.  Along with a strip of pasture on both sides of the burn, the valley is dominated by heath-covered moorland.  Expressions of interest from volunteers are invited.  In due course announcements will be made on the availability of residential and day courses and planting days.


The prospective purchasers, who own and manage an 8-acre plantation five miles away, near Ebchester, County Durham, would like to establish native woodland on the land at South Field under the Woodland Creation Grant Scheme.  Their vision would be to generate a diverse range of habitats, including generous rides and open spaces and the sympathetic management of the haugh as a wetland or burnside habitat.  They note opportunities for community engagement and destination tourism, provided by the nearby village of Edmundbyers (which has a youth hostel) and the proximity of the Derwent Reservoir, along with the local Land of Oak and Iron partnership further down the Derwent Valley.  They envisage granting some form of access to, and local involvement with, the land.  They also envisage opportunities for wider educational engagement.  Max Adams is an experienced teacher of heritage landscapes; the author of several books on trees and woods, and a landscape archaeologist.  They see the varied topographies and burnside location as valuable landscape and wildlife assets, to be enhanced by careful and not over-intensive planting. 

Max and Sarah note the sensitivity of the local lapwing and curlew populations and the wider context of SAC (Special Area of Conservation) and SPA (Special Protection Area) designations, and wish to engage in a dialogue to promote mitigating strategies.  On the planting side, it is evident, there are issues with wind exposure on the southwestern edge, and of ground compaction caused by intensive grazing over many years.  The presence of a thriving rabbit population on the scarp is also noted. 

The two larger, flatter fields (i.e. the land to the SE of the scarp edge) present a straightforward opportunity to plant a new woodland of about 4ha, with ample rides managed for access, habitat and amenity.  Fast growing species – silver birch, Scots pine, perhaps also aspen would provide rapid wind protection along the SW boundary and immediately NE of the dividing wall (which is in a state of disrepair but which might be reconstructed in part).  Further planting, providing clearings and more densely planted areas would consist of predominantly hazel, silver birch and Scots pine, with smaller numbers of oak, beech, rowan, field maple and shrubs such as guelder rose and hawthorn.  A small number of hollies would be planted too.  The slope down to the haugh (extending to about 1 ha) would have a more naturalistic feel, with lower densities of rowan, alder, willow and perhaps crab apple following the natural profile of slope and edge, thinning towards the heugh.  Management of the haugh would be planned after a year of observation to see how the hydrodynamics and natural flora work after the removal of sheep.  It may be that any planting on the haugh will be outside the scope of a Woodland Creation Grant. 

The internal cross walls are beyond repair as they stand.  It is possible that with grant aid one or other might be re-established.  Alternatively, Max and Sarah see the potential for using some of the stone (with education and community participation in mind) to create a circular enclosure/shelter – for volunteers and, perhaps, controlled camping.  With sufficient stone it might also be possible to construct a byre of traditional local design to store materials and basic equipment.

The potential environmental, social and cultural benefits of our scheme, together with suitable mitigation strategies involving relevant expertise and local knowledge would, they hope, outweigh any concerns over existing habitats.