Woodlands Planted for Resilience

Norbury Park New Woodland on Former Arable Land to Offset Carbon

An inspiring new woodland created with a strong motive by the owner to offset carbon.

Norbury Park, Stafford – Prof Jo Bradwell

RFS Woodlands for Climate Change Award 2014 – Highly Commended


Some sixty tree species, many of them novel, planted across 19ha of former arable and pasture farmland, have been included to test their suitability in the light of projected climate change.

Owner Professor Jo Bradwell has planted 140ha of new forest across his estate in order to provide a CO2 offset of approximately 1,000 tonnes per year. The owner is the benefactor to the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) and has made the land and trees at Norbury Park available as a research resource.


An area of 19ha of new planting was submitted
to the 2014 competition. It is situated on gentle
rolling slopes, on poor quality (Grade 3)
agricultural land. Nearby exist Planted Ancient
Woodland sites (PAWs) and a SSSI wetland.

Plantation design

Trees were planted at 2770 per ha, with 2.4m between rows to permit mechanical mowing. Within rows, spacing was varied between 1.5‐ 1.8m to reduce straight lines in the landscape.

Four different planting ‘zones’ were created, intersected by sinuous six metre‐wide rides:

  1. Mixed broadleaves, comprising 17 native species, with oak (both native species) dominating. Ash was planted at 13% but since the arrival of the pathogen Chalara fraxinea in the UK ‒ although currently absent on the site ‒ any beat‐ups (replacement of dead trees) has used alternative species. Alongside ‘minor’ natives ‒including birch, hazel, hornbeam, lime and wild service ‒ a number of exotics were incorporated including London plane, roble, tulip tree and walnut. All species were included in an intimate mixture, taking into account variation in environmental conditions across the site.
  2. Mixed conifers, comprising 16 species, predominantly Douglas‐fir, Norway spruce and western red cedar. Less common species included maritime and Bhutan pine, coast redwood, and Nootka and Sitka cypress.
  3. Exotics and Ornamentals, were planted in corner areas to enhance the landscape, and provide olfactory impact. Species included Japanese maple, magnolias, handkerchief, katsura and tulip tree.
  4. Wayleaves, under high voltage power transmission lines, were under‐planted with small trees and shrubs including hazel, crab apple and wild pear.

Lessons Learnt

Since planting, mortality has been low at just 7%. Where possible, nitrogen‐fixing trees have been included at beat‐up. Less successful species have included coast redwood, Douglas‐fir and Indian beat tree. Those thriving include eucalypts, mulberry, tulip tree and walnut.

The owner aims to grow quality timber, with oak as a dominant major crop tree. He also aims to produce fire logs (ash and eucalypts), high-value furniture timber (cherry and walnut) and wood for craft (lime, mulberry and tulip tree).

It is hoped that a very broad mixture of species will provide resilience in the face of environmental change, both climate and pests/pathogens.

A new estate sawmill and 150kW woodchip boiler, large drying barns, ground source heat pump and 90kW photovoltaic panels demonstrate further the owner’s commitment to a greener future.


The 2014 Excellence in Forestry Climate Change Award was supported by Forestry Commission England in partnership with England’s Climate Ready Support Service hosted in the Environment Agency.

Category judges:

Dr Gabriel Hemery FICFor, is Chief Executive of the
Sylva Foundation.
John Weir MICFor, Advisor for Woodland Creation
and Resilience, Forestry Commission England.


Text and Photos by the Sylva Foundation.