Farmers and landowners will help in the first phase of a £1m project to revitalise an 80sq mile area of Northern Ireland with woodland.
The Woodland Trust will work with landowners to create a "resilient wooded landscape" with numerous benefits in the offing.
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has announced funding of over £50,000 for the first phase of a Woodland Trust project set to revitalise the Faughan Valley landscape, on the outskirts of Derry.
The funding boost will enable the conservation charity to build plans over the next 18 months. It’s an undertaking that sets to benefit the valley’s communities, landowners, landscape and wildlife.
The Faughan Valley runs from the foothills of the Sperrin Mountains along the River Faughan to the outskirts of Derry.
Covering some 80 square miles, it has been identified as an area of strategic importance thanks to some precious natural features.
The river and its tributaries have well-earned environmental designations in recognition of the huge variety of plants and animals.
And pockets of precious ancient woodland – a habitat even rarer in Northern Ireland than elsewhere in the UK – dot this scenic land.
The fundamental aim is to restore, bolster and connect the vulnerable fragments of ancient woodland, and landowners and farmers will play a key role in this.
New hedgerows, for example, will provide a continuous corridor for the valley’s wildlife, which includes the endangered red squirrel.
New and improved access will open up miles of woodland and riverside walks for people to enjoy.
And an education and activity programme will provide the chance for students and members of the public to get to grips with the natural heritage on their doorstep.
Dave Scott, Woodland Trust’s Treescape Project Manager said: “By creating and protecting woodland, we’re helping to create a resilient wooded landscape that will stay strong when faced with ever increasing threats, such as flooding and tree disease.
“But a robust landscape depends upon people. We want farmers to see the practical and financial benefits – the natural capital – that trees and woodland bring.”