Black Brook Restoration project

Black Brook Restoration Project

Improving Black Brook Nature Reserve for wildlife: moorland restoration and broadleaf woodland creation

Staffordshire Wildlife Trust looks after 26 nature reserves across the length and breadth of the county, managing them to provide much-needed refuge for our amazing wild birds, mammals, insects, reptiles and amphibians. Over the last 100 years, huge tracts of prime wildlife habitat have been lost – so conserving and connecting what we have left is crucial if we want wildlife to survive for future generations to enjoy. The moorland that makes up Black Brook is one of these surviving remnants of precious habitat

Moorlands are amazing! Did you know....
  • On a global scale, moorland is rarer than tropical rainforest - and 75 per cent of it is in Britain.
  • Wild open moorlands may appear bleak, but they are home to a wealth of wild birds, plants and animals. Rare species such as red grouse, a stunning game bird with bright red eyebrows, green hairstreak, a small butterfly with brilliant emerald wings and wispy cotton-grass depend on this habitat for their survival.
  • Over the last 50 years, we have lost 40 per cent of moorlands to commercial forestry and over-grazing
Our vision

Before the Trust acquired the reserve, a forestry company planted around 100 acres of the land with conifers for timber production. But the trees were never harvested, and the Trust inherited them when it bought Black Brook in 1996. Dense, gloomy conifer plantations have limited value for wildlife - the dense canopies of conifers block out light from the forest floor, making it difficult for woodland plants and insects to survive.

The Trust’s long-term vision is to restore the conifer plantation back to moorland and also to plant thousands of broadleaf trees - native trees like oak, rowan and hazel, which support a wide variety of wildlife.

The project has been approved by the Forestry Commission following the production of a full Environmental Impact Assessment. If you would like to be sent a copy of of the Environmental Impact Assessment for Black Brook, call the Trust on 01889 880100. 

What we've achieved so far

The Trust began restoring the landscape at Black Brook back in 2002, and the benefits are already apparent.  Areas of land which used to be plantation are now carpeted in moorland plants, such as delicate cotton-grass and bilberry. Over 7,500 broadleaf trees have been planted so far, and these areas are establishing well and on their way to becoming the broadleaf woodland of the future.

Commercial crop to wildlife haven

As the conservation project progresses, we’ll start to see the landscape recover and a wider variety of wild species will move in to Black Brook.

A  wide range of wildflowers and plants will thrive in the new open and woodland areas, such as orchids, bog asphodel and water avens. Moorland insects, such as the beautiful green hairstreak butterfly and the rare moorland bumblebee will be able to colonise the restored landscape.

Black Brook Restoration Project - Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about the Black Brook Restoration Project

When will the works be taking place?

The restoration of Black Brook will take place in two phases over 10 years. The first phase will take five years, and there will be a review before phase two begins.

To see where and when the work will be taking place on the reserve during the first phase, download the map below. 

Black Brook First Phase Map

What machinery will be used?

The scale of the works requires the use of large machinery and timber lorries. We will do our best to minimise disruption to nearby residents. So we do not disturb wildlife at sensitive times, we will only work outside the breeding season.

How will the work affect the appearance of the landscape?

While we recognise that the impact on the landscape will initially be dramatic, nature will work its magic and native trees and plants will grow in place of the conifers. There’s lots of evidence of this around the reserve, where work has taken place previously.

Why can’t the plantation be left as it is?

As well as being a poor wildlife habitat, the conifer plantation is nearing the end of its natural lifespan. The trees were grown for timber and planted close together in rows. Some trees have already fallen down, bringing down neighbouring trees with them. The jumble of trees that remain are unsightly, dangerous and difficult and costly to remove. The Trust doesn’t want to wait for this scenario on a large scale, so needs to harvest the trees within 10 years. This also means that the timber can be put to good use, and used as woodfuel for example.

Why has the Trust put up a deer fence?

We have installed a fence around the new trees that have been planted to protect them from being eaten by deer and give them the best chance of survival. The deer will be able to forage elsewhere. Once the trees are established and the fence is removed, the deer will return.

Will the wildlife in the reserve change as a result of the project?

The aim of the project is to attract a wider variety of wildlife to Black Brook, including many species which are at risk. We have already seen red grouse, a declining moorland bird, moving into the areas that were restored to moorland in 2002.
Delicate cotton-grass, a rare moorland plant, is also thriving in these areas, and as more plants become established over time, insects such as the green hairstreak butterfly and moorland bumblebee will start to colonise it too.

Due to the changing habitat, some common bird species such as wood pigeon, carrion crow and chaffinch may leave the reserve for other areas, while rarer species such as lesser redpoll and willow warbler are expected to move in.    
Here is a list of species that will benefit from the Black Brook conservation project:

Birds: Lesser redpoll, willow warbler, songthrush, bullfinch, tree pipit, dunnock, dipper – these species will benefit from the diversity of habitats which will be restored and created during the project.
Mammals: Water shrew and voles will increase in number as more open ground is provided. These will provide an additional food source for larger mammals) and birds of prey such as  kestrels.
Butterflies: Green-veined white and green hairstreak will benefit from an increase in their favoured food plants to increase, such as bilberry. .
Damselflies/dragonflies: Clearing trees along watercourses and creating new boggy pools will provide open areas for dragonflies and damselflies to increase in numbers.
Flora: Bog asphodel, cranberry, cotton grass, globeflower will be able to spread as new open areas are created.

Has the Trust involved the local community in the plans?

Over the course of the project, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust has held numerous public meetings to keep people informed about the scheme and to listen to their views on it.

The Trust has worked very closely with a group called Forest Neighbours who want to see the plantation retained. As a result of the discussions, the Trust has changed some of its plans to accommodate these concerns while still making the reserve the best it can be for wildlife.

Conservation organisations have also been involved and consulted over the plans, including English Nature, RSPB, Peak District National Park and Forestry Commission.

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