Burnt forest rises from the ashes

A fireman hoses down charred trees in Swinley Forest.
Image caption The Forestry Commission has cleared away the charred trees left after the fire in May 2011.

Hundreds of people have volunteered to help replant more than 85 acres of woodland in Berkshire which were destroyed by a forest fire.

The blaze in Swinley Forest raged for three weeks in May 2011, damaging more than 100,000 trees, most of them pines.

The Forestry Commission has spent six months clearing the area ready for 60,000 new trees to be planted.

It says more fire retardant species like oaks, aspens and alders will be placed on the forest boundaries.

Volunteers - many of whom were evacuated from their homes as the flames ravaged the area - will create ponds to form natural barriers to try to reduce the risk of fires spreading.

Nick Hazlitt, a forester with the Forestry Commission, said they were also hoping to promote wildlife on the site, which is important for ground-nesting birds, dragonflies and damselflies.

"My job is to try to design and establish a robust multi-purpose forest which will be sustainable in the long run," he said.

"One which is economically sustainable with a continued supply of much-needed sustainable timber and acts as a carbon sink but equally more robust in terms of fire, pests and diseases.

"We're also taking the opportunity to build in some more opportunities for habitat and wildlife."


On Friday up to 300 people are expected to start replanting in the most severely damaged area of Crowthorne Forest with species including sweet chestnuts, sequoia, Douglas firs and mountain pines.

Experts from as far afield as the New Forest are coming in to help the volunteers who will include members of the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service who brought the forest fire under control.

Chairwoman of the Forestry Commission, Pam Warhurst, said: "It's just incredible to witness the passion and enthusiasm volunteers have for forests all over the country, especially in the case of Crowthorne.

"There is an emotive connection and when people make that decision and commitment to volunteer, it is a great leveller and brings unexpected pleasure and joy in many different ways."

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