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Preserving our Woodland Heritage at Hardcastle Crags - An Alternative Approach

From L Jackson

Friday, 22 January 2021

In 2016 the National Trust produced a Woodland Management Plan for Hardcastle Crags covering the main estate plus NT land in the adjoining valleys of Crimsworth Dean and Pecket Well Clough. The Plan's 600-word introduction alludes briefly to the flora and fauna of the woodlands, which are described as 'supporting a good range of plants, invertebrates, birds and mammals'. Apart from one map outlining the main types of trees, however, there are no species lists for any of the existing habitats.

Woodland biodiversity

Three pages of Aims and Objectives are all very general in nature. For example, the aim to 'increase opportunities for our local wildlife' is supported by the statement: 'Britain's woodland biodiversity is in trouble. Reports show that 60 per cent of our woodland species have decreased and 34 per cent have decreased strongly over recent decades.' The Plan contains no supporting evidence to demonstrate that these figures reflect the level of biodiversity at Hardcastle Crags. 

A column headed 'How can we achieve it?' includes two bullet points with drastic and far-reaching consequences for Hardcastle Crags:

'Increase light levels to the forest floor through thinning and selective felling.'

'Selective felling'

What 'selective felling' actually means is cutting down or otherwise killing between 40-60% of all the trees across two-thirds of the whole Hardcastle Crags estate. In other words, what the Plan proposes is systematically to destroy thousands of existing trees, including century-old trees which are only part way through their natural lifespan.

'Standing deadwood'

'Create deadwood, both standing and fallen.' 

What 'standing deadwood' actually means is lopping all the branches off a mature tree and killing it near the base, but leaving the dead trunk standing. Information boards in Hardcastle Crags refer to these dead trees as 'monoliths', implying that they are a grand and fitting memorial to the living trees that have been destroyed. The reality is that they are mature trees needlessly killed long before the end of their natural lifecycle. The term 'monoliths' is not actually used the Woodland Management Plan, nor is the policy explained.

Beech Trees of Pecket Well Clough

The rest of the Plan consists of Compartment Summaries, in which the estate is broken down into 37 separate areas. It is here, in cursory summaries of less than 50 words, that the fate of each part of the woodlands is summarily decided. In section 8b, for example, the upper part of Pecket Well Clough is described as 'An area of mixed broadleaved woodland with an uneven age structure'. The proposal is 'Intervention: 60% Selective Fell. Constraints: None.' Thus, at the drop of a hat, two-thirds of the mature beech trees in this stunning, much-loved woodland were doomed to be felled, without any consideration for the intrinsic beauty of this steep-sided wooded gorge with its cascades of waterfalls and the avenue of beech trees planted alongside a historic packhorse track leading to an ancient packhorse bridge. 

Unsupervised contractors

The insensitivity of such damaging and intrusive interventions is directly contrary to the National Trust's other stated aims, which include maintaining 'the beauty and wildness of our woodlands'. The Trust also claims that it is 'working with local partners to identify all areas of cultural and historical significance [which] will be added to a constraints map that will be consulted prior to all operations.' This has not happened. The reality is that contractors have been sent in unsupervised and unannounced to carry out large-scale felling. No survey work is carried out beforehand. The contractors have been given a free rein and take 'about a minute' to decide which trees to fell. Such is the fate of the century-old trees in Hardcastle Crags at the hands of the National Trust.

Tree Preservation Order

The irony is that the woodlands in Hardcastle Crags are covered by a blanket Tree Preservation Order (TPO 48/00001/BC), an indication of their value and significance as a major natural heritage asset. Although the Woodland Management Plan makes passing reference to this, it fails to mention that the primary objective of the Plan was to secure a Felling Licence which would override the legal protection hitherto provided by the Tree Preservation Order. 

Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation)

According to Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation) (England) Regulations 2012, the purpose of Tree Preservation Orders is to prohibit 'the cutting down, topping, lopping, uprooting, wilful damage, wilful destruction of individual trees, trees within an area, groups of trees or whole woodlands… if their removal would have significant negative impact on the local environment and its enjoyment by the public.' The law states that 'protected trees can be of any size or species' and that key factors determining protected woodlands include 'size and form; potential as an amenity; rarity, cultural or historic value; contribution to, and relationship with, the landscape.' Clearly Hardcastle Crags meets all these criteria, which is why a blanket Tree Preservation Order was applied.

Lack of public consultation

It is the responsibility of the local authority to ensure that landowners comply with Tree Preservation Orders. A large scale proposal for mass tree felling and lopping at Hardcastle Crags should have been the subject of statutory public consultation and should have scrutinised and discussed at the highest level before permission was given. Instead, the Felling Licence application was simply passed to the Forestry Commission by Calderdale Council without investigation or comment. The Forestry Commission then lodged the Felling Licence application on the Public Register for Forestry. Not surprisingly, given that the general public are completely aware of the existence of such a platform, there was no feedback. As a result, the Forestry Commission issued a 10 year Felling Licence to the National Trust in 2017, which is now being used to justify the current programme of work.

Woodland ecology

Hardcastle Crags consists of a series of interlinked and overlapping habitats. The National Trust's Woodland Management Plan fails to recognise the intricacy and subtleties of the existing habitats and gives no consideration to the ecology of the estate as a whole. The flora and fauna of each 'compartment' do not exist in isolation. Plants colonise certain areas depending on the conditions and wildlife moves freely through different terrains. The fact that some thrive in one area and some in another doesn't mean that there is no biodiversity in particular places, simply that individual species favour certain conditions. Taken as a whole – the sum of its parts - which is how the estate ought to be viewed, Hardcastle Crags is actually a remarkable example of biodiversity. 

Felling, lopping and killing trees on a massive scale

The mass tree felling instigated by the National Trust as part of its Woodland Management Plan is already well under way and is scheduled to continue until 2027. Multiple teams of contractors are currently at work in various locations, felling, lopping and killing trees on a massive scale. A large proportion of the trees destroyed over the last two years and scheduled for destruction over the coming months are mature beech trees. Most of these trees are over 100 years old and are specimens of great beauty and majesty. In a number of places beech trees have been consciously planted in avenues. Ironically, the Woodland Management Plan features a glossy photo of one of these beech avenues, including some of the very trees destined for the chop.

Beech woods

Beech woods occur in clumps in various parts of the estate, complementing other areas of deciduous woodland. These beech woods with their beautiful green and gold canopies are one of the crowning glories of Hardcastle Crags. Rather than respecting them for their intrinsic qualities and the part they play in the diverse woodland habitats that make up Hardcastle Crags as a whole, the National Trust have decreed that beech trees are somehow 'unnatural' and 'alien' and must be eliminated. They also claim that beech trees create a 'dead' environment.

The fact that beech trees have thrived on the steep slopes of Hardcastle Crags for centuries indicates just how acclimatised they are to this landscape and this environment. How anyone can claim that beech woods are 'dead' is bizarre. The density of leaf cover in their canopy is an affirmation of how vigorously alive they are. The canopy itself is a symbol of life. While it is true that the shade cast by their canopy inhibits plant growth below to a degree, it is wrong to say that nothing grows in a beech wood. Beech trees happily co-exist with holly, ramsons (wild garlic) and bluebells in many parts of Hardcastle Crags. These areas of woodland also provide a benign habitat for a range of wildlife, including tawny owls, buzzards, herons, woodpeckers and roe deer. 

Beech trees are part of our heritage

The National Trust claim that beech is a non-native species, which is manifestly untrue. While beech trees may be less common in the north than in the south, it is ridiculous to claim that they do not belong here and are somehow out of place. One of the reasons why beech trees were planted in such large numbers in this area during the 19th century was to create a ready supply of timber for bobbins for the local textile industry. Not only are these beech trees a great asset to our local natural heritage, they are a living reminder of the textile heritage of the area, just like the mills, packhorse bridges, packhorse tracks and handloom weavers' cottages that make the Upper Calder Valley so historically rich and distinctive. 

Our local beech woodlands are a heritage asset to be cherished, not to be casually destroyed by an over-zealous, tunnel vision drive for biodiversity. There are plenty of other ways to achieve greater biodiversity without needlessly felling mature beech trees. A more sensitive approach would be to allow these trees to fulfil their natural lifespan, which in many cases could be for another 20 or 30 years. In the meantime, the National Trust could adopt a rolling programme of slow woodland management, stepping in as trees and branches fall, using fallen (as opposed to felled) timber for natural flood management schemes, then replanting new trees in these areas afterwards. 

Where's the evidence?

Although large scale tree planting will reap environmental benefits over time, in the short to medium term it is hard to believe that felling thousands of mature beech trees and replacing them with tiny saplings could possibly be considered carbon neutral. What is the evidence for this? How long does it actually take before the immediate damage to the environment caused by felling one mature tree is cancelled out by the growth of five saplings? We all hope that Slow the Flow initiatives such as leaky dams will help to alleviate flooding in the Calder Valley but is there really such a pressing need to fell mature trees to generate the timber for these schemes? Has anyone assessed the impact that the disruptive act of felling a large beech tree on a steep slope has in destabilising the ground where the tree previously stood? Isn't there a danger that beech nuts, leaf mould and soil from the newly exposed churned up ground will be washed down into the streams and rivers that feed into Hebden Water, exacerbating the flooding problems in the Calder Valley?

National Trust should suspend the work

What should happen now? Although prompt intervention by concerned local residents has prevented the wholesale destruction of Pecket Well Clough and forced the National Trust to agree to stop felling and lopping beech trees in this particular area, large parts of the rest of Hardcastle Crags are still under threat. Given the level of public concern about the Woodland Management Plan – including not only the dubious rationale for large scale mass felling, but also the lack of proper public consultation and scrutiny - in all fairness the National Trust should suspend the work, particularly in potentially controversial and sensitive areas. 

The only part of Hardcastle Crags where significant felling could arguably be beneficial is compartment 4f, an area dominated by Japanese Larch planted in the 1970s. If the National Trust feels obliged to comply with its current contractual obligations, an obvious solution would be to relocate its contractors to this area. This would allow some breathing space to enable a thorough review of the rest of the Woodland Management Plan to be carried out.

Review the Woodland Management Plan

The review should include detailed surveys of the habitats in all the other areas targeted for thinning and selective felling. Unless there is a very strong reason for mass felling and lopping based on clear incontrovertible evidence, this should be dropped. In future it is vital that the intrinsic value of existing habitats should be acknowledged and respected, particular in beech woodlands where the aesthetic merits and heritage value of the trees is so important. 

Henceforth, it would be advisable if a policy of minimum intervention was adopted as a precautionary measure. Natural obsolescence and 'slow management' could be adopted as a guiding principle, in place of the insensitive, overly intrusive, quick fix approach proposed in the Woodland Management Plan. Ultimately, the same aims could still be achieved, including encouraging greater biodiversity and implementing natural flood management schemes, without wreaking such destruction on this precious landscape and the treasured woodland habitats that already exist at Hardcastle Crags.

From Ms. P. Finch

Saturday, 23 January 2021

Huge thanks to L. Jackson for this detailed analysis. You have expressed clearly what so many of us thought but couldn't put into words so clearly. 

From Philip Marshall

Saturday, 23 January 2021

L. Jackson makes a detailed and reasoned critique. 

In the other similar thread, I asked who is making the decision on which individual trees are to be removed. If, as L. Jackson asserts, the contractors have been given free reign to decide, it is very bad to abdicate this responsibility. Is it true?

I also asked whether Veteran Tree status has been considered. Many of the Beech may be up to 170 years old; has this been taken into consideration and their particular importance for fungal succession? The Ancient Tree Forum is a national body which has long campaigned for the recognition of Ancient and Veteran Trees, particularly for their fungal and species assemblages. The whole concept of fungi and non-living wood has been re-written, a subject actively promulgated by them. 

The original consultation was never rolled out properly but it is not too late for the National Trust to respond to reasoned questions. They have put out a press release but it seems very odd that no contribution to this thread has been forthcoming. 

Reasonable concerns are not the same as "we don't want any felling or intervention". I have been a long-standing supporter of good woodland management and understand the benefits. But I also learnt the value of old trees, the best of which should always have special consideration before intervention. Think trees, not percentages.   

Slow the Flow made a good comment from their perspective, perhaps someone from the NT would now like to contribute?

From S Blacksmith

Saturday, 23 January 2021

Sadly, L. Jackson is not up to speed on today's knowledge of woodland management

Message Content: The Crags is to me one of the most wonderful places on the planet; I first got to know the area when my scout troop was based at Gibson Mill in the 1960s. I support all the work the National Trust is currently doing.

Selective felling: the opening up of the closed canopy allows  the sunlight  to reach the ground benefiting flowers and grasses, and these in turn benefit the insects which feed the songbirds. What is a woodland without flowers, butterflies and birdsong? Small mammals thrive in the sunny, flowery, grassy glades and sustain the owls.

"Monoliths" or standing deadwood: a whole suite of insects and fungi live only in standing deadwood; fallen branches have different insect/fungus/moss/liverwort communities. Woodpeckers drill holes in dead trunks, nesting in some, leaving others for small birds to nest or roost in.

Beech trees are not native to this area as L.Jackson correctly states, but they have started self-seeding at an alarming rate in recent decades. Unfortunately beech shade out more sun than any other tree and the bare ground that develops beneath them is prone to erosion. A herb layer below trees fixes carbon, prevents erosion, and holds back rainfall, slowing down the run-off that contributes to flooding.

If you stand in the middle of a wood, and imagine every alternate tree removed all around you, what would you have? A sunnier, warmer wood is what you would have. I wish the National Trust were braver, and would thin out the woodland more thoroughly.

Trees that have more space to spread their branches do better than those that are crowded in by lots of other trees. There is a case to be made for some judicious grazing with animals among the glades. They graze off self-sown tree seedlings and fertilise the herb layer and the trees with their dung. They also browse low-hanging foliage, creating wide views through the trees. 

These are some of the concepts of modern woodland management. New ideas may come along in the future, perhaps in response to climate change, but be assured there are many dedicated, highly-educated and qualified foresters and countryside managers currently in practice and coming up through the education system, not that I am one of them. I just have a passion for the aesthetics and the biology of woodland, especially at Hardcastle Crags. 

From Dai Davies

Saturday, 23 January 2021

Beech trees look fantastic, but they are one of the worst species for wildlife. Why is that? They cast such a dense shade and have such acid leaves that there is less growth of other species of plant than under other trees. They host far fewer species of insect than other trees, including non-natives, so are less frequented by birds and other wildlife. So, I am in favour of selective culling of these trees in the valley, and replacing them with more beneficial trees.

I went to the public consultation meetings that the Trust held in the Craggs well over a year back when they put forward the pros and cons. Perhaps more should have attended?

From Ray F.

Monday, 25 January 2021

I’m relieved to see that the issue of excessive tree felling in Hardcastle Crags has been brought to public attention at last.

The magnificent beeches on the hillside above Gibson Mill have been butchered over the last few years by the National Trust.

Rather than the stated aims of the Management Plan to “maintain the site’s visual amenity and give our visitors a great experience” and keep “the wild feel of the woodlands” at times the National Trust seem to be aspiring towards the re-creation of a Paul Nash battle landscape.

If there’s any ambiguity about the merits of long-lived trees whether they relate to aesthetics or the benefits to fungi then surely they should get the benefit of the doubt – two hundred years to grow, an hour to chop down. As temporary custodians of this long valued and special place, the National Trust should be approaching their task with the requisite humility and a flexible, open, transparent and properly consultative approach to ensure the health and survival of the Crags, rather than the current draconian measures. 

From L. Jackson

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Stop Press: Dangers of Felling Existing Woodlands highlighted in the journal Global Change Biology, as featured on Radio 4 Today Programme 26 January 2021

'Tree planting is a brilliant solution to tackle climate change and protect biodiversity, but experts at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, have warned against the dangers of felling existing forests.'

They point out that:

'Undamaged old-growth forests are major long-term carbon sinks. It takes at least a century to restore damaged forests'

Their key recommendation is to:

'Protect existing forests first: Keeping forests in their original state is always preferable; undamaged old forests soak up carbon better and are more resilient to fire, storm and droughts. "Whenever there's a choice, we stress that halting deforestation and protecting remaining forests must be a priority," said Prof Alexandre Antonelli, director of science at RGB Kew.'

This timely new research only underlines the urgent need for the National Trust to suspend their current misguided programme of mass tree felling and lopping in Hardcastle Crags. Rather than protecting the environment as they claim they are doing, the National Trust are actually contributing to climate change by felling and killing mature trees. 

As this research highlights, the whole basis of the National Trust's Woodland Management Plan is fundamentally flawed. There are other alternatives to mass felling - and indeed there always were - but the National Trust have deliberately chosen not to pursue them. An urgent review of all the options for sensitive woodland management at Hardcastle Crags is urgently needed before it's too late. 

From J Swift

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

L. Jackson fails to realise that Hardcastle Crags is not an old growth forest, but a plantation.  

As the National Trust point out:

"Most of the woodland at Hardcastle Crags was planted in the 1870s to make the approach to Lord Savile's shooting lodge at Walshaw more attractive."

If you walk through a Victorian artificial monoculture beech wood it is immediately apparent that the trees have shaded out ground flora and understory.  The potential biodiversity has been choked off. 

You'll also notice, how after heavy rain the ground sheds water rather than absorbing it.  Not really what we need round here!

Prior to the Anthropocene, old growth forests were 'managed' by large herbivores, wild boar and beavers, which restricted the growth of trees, leaving glades to flourish, and increasing the variety of fauna and flora present.  Until we can reintroduce these species, we have to do the work they'll do for us, if we want vibrant woodlands.

The National Trust's critics seem to me to have succumbed to a version of what Benedict McDonald calls 'Ecological Tidiness Disorder', where current aesthetics stand in the way of the vital task of allowing our threatened wildlife to recover from its current parlous state.

I strongly suggest that they read McDonald's 'Rebirding' along with George Monbiot's 'Feral'. Perhaps they might then see the laudable improvements the National Trust are making in a more positive light.

From Graham Barker

Thursday, 28 January 2021

I don't know one end of a tree from the other but at a time when we're being encouraged to plant, protect and value trees as a necessary part of our climate change reset, surely it makes no sense to chop down mature broadleaf trees in pursuit of what L Jackson summarises as 'an over-zealous, tunnel visio n drive for biodiversity'. 

Tree-felling on an industrial scale will also send out entirely the wrong message to visitors to Hardcastle Crags.

A vision of textbook woodland perfection decades down the line is no substitute for trees that are doing valuable front line carbon capture work right now. Whether beech trees are the grey squirrel of the tree world doesn't matter. They're working well on our behalf as they are, so leave them to it. The National Trust has got this one wrong.

From Stuart Faulkner

Sunday, 31 January 2021

Thank you to Lesley for bringing this to our attention, I totally agree. it highlights fully that the National Trust's Woodland Management Plan for Hardcastle Crags contradicts what it has previously said and that other alternatives to mass tree felling, that do not have such a devastating and irreversible outcome, need to be considered. I think that the National Trust should review their current woodland management at Hardcastle Crags before any more damage to this beautiful area is done. 

From Andrew Marsh

Sunday, 31 January 2021

I have to disagree with some of L Jacksons comments. 

Selective Felling is the removal of some fully mature trees to allow light to reach the woodland floor and encourage new growth. This will allow for the regeneration of the woodland and increase diversity. woodlands are dynamic places that have been managed for millennia both by man and by nature. Since man first started managing our land the natural processes that would have made woodlands self-sustaining have been eroded. Gone are the large mammals that would have done that work to be replaced by men with saws and axes. Gone are the large carnivores that would have kept the system in balance. In essence it is up us to manage the woods as we can no longer rely on those natural processes.

Standing deadwood is perhaps one of our most important and rare habitats. In natural woodlands around 80% of the wood in the woodland would be deadwood. There is a requirement within the woodland management plan process to ensure a certain percentage of deadwood is created. Standing deadwood is a particularly important habitat for many species.

The Lack of public consultation is false. It is not possible to have a woodland management plan accepted without a rigorous consultation process. Without the woodland management plan being accepted there is no felling licence.

The plan is put together under extremely strict guidelines, not always how those undertaking the process would want to do it, but the system required by the authorities. Much like any planning process it requires the understanding and knowledge of those interpreting it to ensure it is undertaken with the Woodland ecology in mind. 

There is plenty of Evidence about the benefits of active woodland management, should one wish to look for it. 

Sylva Foundation: Why manage woodland & who benefits?

“Active management of woodlands will ensure a wide range of species, genetic diversity and age structure; the main elements essential to ensure resilience. ... Woodlands are recognised as providing a wide range of important habitats for wildlife.”

Finally when quoting from publications it is advisable to include a link to the article being quoted so that it can be seen in context. This article has more relevance to the areas of deforestation and degradation in the Amazon, Borneo and the large temperate forest regions than the woodlands of this island. 

Wiley Online Library: Ten golden rules for reforestation to optimize carbon sequestration, biodiversity recovery and livelihood benefits

From Jewel C

Monday, 1 February 2021

Though booked on, I sadly missed last week’s meeting so please any feedback, especially with detailed development plans…? As actively opposing HS2 & a woodland owner myself, member of the RFS & other illustrious bodies, I find this blind adherence to National Trust outdated policies shocking as seemingly contradicting such worthy bodies as the Woodland Trust and woodlands.co.uk as well as the Sylva foundation which all have far more coherence & contemporary local relevance. 

Being thin barked, beech is particularly vulnerable to climate change driven increases in mammal pest species such as grey squirrels (worse destructor than beech!). More generally, stressed trees are more susceptible to insect pests and diseases. The majority of insect pests that currently affect UK forestry are likely to benefit from climate change as a result of increased activity and reduced winter mortality. These impacts are likely to affect the commercial value of beech and lead to changes in the composition of both the canopy and ground flora of beech and yew woodland. See this Natural England page

Woods tend to be primarily managed for profit which I’m sure is not relevant here (though HS2 has chopped down many ancient oaks additional to their ‘permitted’ massacre simply to sell!) 140 y-o beech trees may not be ancient woodland but are pretty mature compared to ‘man’ (repeatedly cited as source of unhelpful interference in natural regeneration. As the National Trust explains: Our gender pay gap exists because we employ more women in lower paid roles, such as retail, food and beverage and cleaning, where the overwhelming majority of applicants have traditionally been female. This has a big effect when we calculate the average wage for women across the organisation.

When the aims are for protection of our vital heritage of natural woodland and for public health & pleasure, I can see no justification for such a culling without full public consultation. It is already too late in the tree year to effectively replant but such majestic woodland cannot be replaced in the current limited life expectations due to climate chaos. It should also be noted that standing dead wood is the most needed resource for undisturbed preservation.

Before any further action, I would welcome a local working party that can now have time to examine issues towards amicably creative conclusions in considering the local context as well as national disasters currently occurring on that ridiculously unnecessary extravagance of massive HS2 profiteering at expense of any public interest or life survival hopes... 

From Andy M

Monday, 1 February 2021

I'll let the National Trust answer the management questions but their overall aim is to preserve the woodland heritage of the site  - although they may be a bit stumped (aha) about how the gender pay gap applies?

There was a public  consultation I recall - closed now. 

From Philip Marshall

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

I agree the woodland should be managed and Beech trees were overplanted in the 19thC. But this should not preclude leaving the better specimens of older Beech, which are far more valuable as a habitat than standing dead wood. 

At the Wadsworth Parish Council meeting, I asked if any had been selected for Veteran Tree status but it seems this wasn't considered. There was also a tacit admission that some of the trees had been selected for felling by the contractors. Not good. 

I would suggest be careful not to overplant; 4,000 new trees is a lot and they will also need management before too long; is there a plan for this? Self-seeding has not been accounted for and may well be more successful than the tubed trees. 

The woodland floor can be just as shaded with excessive number of new trees as can a closed mature canopy. 

Coppicing may take place but can I suggest creating Pollards with some of the Oaks? This technique is far older than coppicing and creates a more diverse structure to woodland.

It also provides unique veteran-type habitat in a relatively short time and, unlike coppicing, protection against Deer is not needed. Be bold and revive this ancient practice!

From Brian Fairbrother

Thursday, 4 February 2021

The felling of so many trees is not helping the environment. More care should have been taken in tree selection and far fewer should have been felled. It is shocking. The people of Hebden Bridge can expect more flooding as a result and they will know who to blame. No amount of saplings planted will compensate for the mature trees felled. 

From Mark H

Saturday, 6 February 2021

Seems to me that the non-native beeches quickly develop a canopy of leaves above the more established native species, then selfishly cling on to their dead leaves which protect the buds over winter. 

The carpet of dead leaves in spring completes the year-round hogging of the light, preventing undergrowth. A root plate grows outward from the tree, further stifling competition by absorbing the rainwater.

All in all, I'd say we need to lose beech trees where we can from the steeper parts of the upper valley, but I have a few questions.

If we take out swathes of beeches in one fell swoop, how much bare soil is exposed? It'll be a few years before the beech rootplates have gone and the new planted trees can grow through. Higher runoff = more soil erosion in the immediate term. Is it better to take them out over a few years rather than months?

What happens to the beechwood produced? Beech is widely used in furniture, in wooden tools and all manner of objects before we had plastic.   Once seasoned, it machines well and is resistant to distortion. 

It also burns well. Ah, the tang of woodsmoke on a cold crisp day...

Maybe the National Trust could consider sustaining a supply of beech, and other wood, alongside a hydro powered bells-and-whistles woodworking shop at Gibson Mill, to share skills and ideas to develop and create appropriate substitutes for plastics or metals? 

Over time, proper training and apprenticeships would develop real transferable skills for innovative and heritage purposes as well as making best use of high quality timber from mature trees.

It could make furniture and quality carpentry, components for buildings. Build a 32-gun frigate to protect our happy British fish....  I could go on.

Just don't create a glut of lumber that ends up in 100,000 woodburners for want of a better plan than this one seems to be.

See also:

HebWeb Forum: Tree Felling on a Commercial Scale

HebWeb News: Work continues on woodland at Hardcastle Crags (18 Jan 2021)

HebWeb Forum: Pecket Well Clough destruction