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  • Robert Henry

Beech Monoliths at Hardcastle Crags

We've been busy at National Trust Hardcastle Crags in the South Pennines creating 150 Beech monoliths.

There were some areas of plantation beech woodland that, although attractive, was shading out any other species trying to establish itself. The forest floor under the beech trees can become relatively sterile. This was having a negative effect on the biodiversity of these areas so the team at National Trust decided to create openings in the canopy and enhance the number of species of plants, invertebrates and birds.

By removing the branches from the main stem the remaining monolith will rot down over many years creating habitat for insects and food for birds. There are many woodpeckers in the woodland that will also take up residence and feed in the trees.

The brash was cut and left in windrows across the valley sides. This will provide shelter for birds and, as they rot down, more habitat for the invertebrates that are so important as a food source for them.

The windrows will also help with the ongoing natural flood management works that we are helping with in the valley. They will help slow the flow of water entering the river which feeds the frequently flooding River Calder further down the valley. More information on the natural flood management works can be found at

Cuts were made into the monolith at different angles and positions to provide roosts for the many species of bats that thrive in the woodland.

We carried out the works using our team of trained arborists who climbed the trees using rope and harness. We then dismantled the branches using chainsaws. The ground crew then used chainsaw to cut the larger branches up and drag them into the windrows.

Safety was paramount as we were working remotely with limited phone signal. Much of the work was alongside footpaths that remained open . Signage was erected, radios were used and good communication was kept with the climbers and ground crew to keep staff and public safe.

The benefits of the work was immediate with a huge amount of light getting to the forest floor. The rangers on the site have already noted an increase in bird species using the areas.

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