Concerns over 'unjustified' tree felling at Scarborough's Raincliffe Woods

A portion of Raincliffe Woods photographed in January 2019.
A portion of Raincliffe Woods photographed in January 2019.

A community project aimed at regenerating an ancient woodland is being criticised for its “invasive” approach.

Raincliffe Woods, just outside the urban edge of Scarborough, is a 222-hectare area of woodland mostly made up of conifer trees.

A portion of Raincliffe Woods pictured in January; inset, a picture of the same beech wood from last autumn.

A portion of Raincliffe Woods pictured in January; inset, a picture of the same beech wood from last autumn.

After decades of little forestry management, owner of the land, Scarborough Borough Council, issued a licence to Raincliffe Wood Community Enterprise (RWCE) in 2015 to extract timber.

This, RWCE directors say, is part of a thinning operation which is necessary to transform the wood into a community asset and safeguard its future for generations to come.

However, some members of the public have expressed concern over the extent and impact of this felling process.

Local resident Jayne Strutt, who often uses the woodland, said: “This is a beautiful wood, it’s in the hearts of many local people and it’s getting dismantled. It would benefit from a bit of TLC, I accept that, but not on this scale.

“This is a public woodland, not a commercial forest.

“Since this organisation came in we’ve seen no benefits at all, I actually think it would have been better if they’d left it alone.”

She added: “There seems to be no logic in the way they are selecting these trees and are they going to replant them? What are the aims of this group?

“There’s a lot of secrecy in this organisation, most of their meetings are private and nobody seems to know what they’re doing.”

According to RWCE, the thinning exercise is just the first stage of a regeneration programme which allows more sunlight to reach the ground as well as more growing space for the remaining trees.

Robert Peacock, one of the directors at RWCE, said: “Our aim is to have a healthy woodland that everyone can benefit from.

“Most trees were replanted in the 1950s and really, to have a healthy wood we need a mixture of specimen trees, intermediate trees that are 30-40 years old and young trees.

“Waiting until all trees die back at the same time will not give us a healthy woodland or a diverse flora and fauna so we believe this thinning programme is the right thing to do.

“Unfortunately we can’t please everybody all the time but those we meet in the woodland and get a chance to talk to about our work always come across as very supportive and understanding, especially about the short term disruption that thinning operations create.”

Mr Peacock also clarified that any profit made by the sale of timber is reinvested back into the woodland and that trees will be replanted in two to three years’ time.

On Saturday 16 March RWCE will be holding a clear-up event to tidy up the woodland floor. After the success of last week’s event, the group is calling once again for volunteers to clear the wood and brash from 10am to 4pm. They will meet at the Saw Mill car park.

Those who attend the event will also have the chance to take away some logs for their own use.