Event: Learning About Woodlands – 30th Nov

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A walk and talk through Hedley Hall Woods, near Sunniside, near Gateshead

Tuesday 30 Nov – 10:30am to approx. 3:00pm

Join us as we explore this wonderful Woodland Trust site of 93 Ha (230 acres). The walk will be led by Mark Shipperlee, who manages woodland working volunteers on various Woodland Trust sites in the region, through Living Woods North East CIC.

We will learn about identifying trees, their role in nature, how woodlands are created and the role of woodland management.

This free event will also give you the opportunity to learn about how you could get involved, volunteering in the woods.

You will need to bring your lunch and refreshments, and suitable clothing and footwear. Please note there are no facilities on site. The walk will be done at a leisurely place with frequent stops to talk about things of interest.

We will meet in the main car park at Hedley Hall woods, signposted (brown sign) from Sunniside – for 10:30am.

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Grid reference – NZ 217565

Google Maps –


To attend either of these events, or for further information, please email Mark at mark@livingwoodsnortheast.org.uk  to book a place  – this helps us with numbers or check out https://www.facebook.com/LivingWoodsNorthEast


On Saturday 9th of March Living Woods North East hosted a tree planting in Washingwell Woods in Gateshead with members of Newcastle’s Conversation Group, many of whom are refugees from war torn countries in the Middle East including Iraq and Syria. 18 volunteers attended, and on this sunny March afternoon we shattered the previous Living Woods record of four hundred and eighty trees by planting a whooping 750 oak trees!

By a fantastic stroke of chance, every oak we planted happened to be sourced just a stone’s throw away from a tree nursery that no longer exists (we bought 8,000 of them in a closing down sale two years ago!). This is good because it means the oaks trees are adapted to this particular part of the region. Learn more about the amazing tree that is oak here:

Whilst planting tree, many interesting conversations are happening all over the woods. As lunch approached we found some wild garlic – a discovery that was met with much excitement!

Thank you to the Conversation Group for helping to enrich Washingwell Woods, and thank you to the staff of Gateshead council for working with us to make this event happen.

Our First ‘Woodland Works’ Days

Coppicing with Students & Willow Cutting with Volunteers

With Mark Shipperlee joining as a director we now have a new facet to our work – not only do we plant trees, but we are also now getting involved in woodland management work, through our project “Woodland Works”. It is early days but it was great to work with a group of students during national Student Volunteering Week. They joined us on Saturday 9 February at a woodland in Horsley where a traditional hazel coppice is being brought back into management.

Hazel coppicing was a regular form of woodland management up until about 100 years ago, providing materials for fencing, hedging, firewood and even for thatching spars, along with being a great source for walking sticks and bean rods. The Hazel is harvested every 7 years, by being cut back just above ground level, and allowed to regrow, as multiple stems. A woodland would traditionally be divided in to seven “coops” and a coop would be cut each year.

The students from NUSU (Newcastle University Students Union) helped with covering coppice stools  with cut brash (to prevent Roe deer eating regrowth) and also helped to sort and gather cut material – stakes, poles, etc as well the cordwood from larger stems that is being stored on site awaiting the arrival of a charcoal kiln for processing.

A second event was held earlier in February, where volunteers gathered for the annual working of managing an abandoned Biomass Willow plot near Haydon Bridge. Some of the work is the annual coppicing of stems we have previously restored, and then working to get more stems back into production. Some of the material was taken for making hurdles, some for geodome construction demonstration – and then the rest made a huge bonfire (if left on the floor it would start sprouting again).

Join us for a Work Day

Another day at the Willow plot near Haydon Bridge is planned for Sunday March 31st, and it would be great to have a big group to help with dragging and burning the old material – the aim is to get every old stem cut and back into production on this day. Contact us for more details – mark@livingwoodsnortheast.org.uk

The Need For Seed

Did you know that many trees do not produce seed every year – and years of abundant seed are often known as “mast years”  – originally used for described great harvests of Beech or Oak seed https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2017/10/autumn-is-back/ .

This fluctuation of seed probably enables a balance in nature, but for people growing trees commercially it can mean that local seed is not available in certain years (it is now thought that ideally seed should have local provenance – i.e. any tree grown from seed in a nursery is best planted within the defined region that the seed was collected from).

To help us with our own tree supply for future planting – we are considering developing seed collections and growing the trees on ourselves. Whilst this is just in the planning phase, we would be interested in anyone who has spare acorns or other seed of broadleaf trees, to get in touch with us at hello@livingwoodsnortheast.org.uk

Planting Water Loving Trees in Blackhall Mill

On Saturday 23rd of February, we hosted another open invite community tree planting day beside the river Derwent in Blackhall Mill.

Sixteen volunteers joined us throughout the course of the day, and together we planted 120 willow and alder trees, both of which are water loving trees. Willow in particular likes to be planted in wet sites, and unlike other trees, you can even plant in submerged ground and it can still grow.

Each community tree planting day has a different atmosphere depending on the weather, the location, and the people there. This one was particular fun in a relaxing kind of way, thanks to the sunshine and the spirits of volunteers. It was especially good to see so many young people coming out to plant trees with us. The weather was warm, the snowdrops were out, and it was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Thank you to the Big Lottery who funded this and other tree planting days through their Awards For All scheme. Much appreciated!

New Director Appointed

We welcome Mark Shipperlee as a new, fourth, director of Living Woods North East. Mark brings the experience of running small organisations, having established and run an international charity for ten years. He also has worked in woodlands and tree related work for many years and currently specialises in growing fruit trees for sale and production. He has also worked as an instructor and assessor for chainsaw operation when certification was introduced. Mark lives on Hadrian’s Wall where he has a small-holding focussed on growing food, and is involved in helping to teach Permaculture Design in the North East, Scotland and even as far away as Transylvania!

“I am passionate about trees, and really appreciate this opportunity to help with the logistics and organisation of getting more trees planted in our region, and helping to get local woodlands back into regular management. Managing small woodlands makes so much sense – for wildlife diversity, tree health and also where possible to produce a crop – albeit in the long term! In these challenging times for our climate an increase in trees in our region can only be a good thing.”

Welcome Mark. Great to have you on board!

More Trees Needed

Are you one of these lucky people that has too many tree seedlings growing in their garden, and you end up weeding them out every year?

We would love to have them please. We benefited from an amazing deal initially to buy several thousand Oak trees locally – but these have nearly all been planted and we are now looking at how we ensure young trees for our future work.

At this stage we are happy to just look after any excess seedlings in our gardens over the summer, ready for planting next autumn/winter, so if you have any that you are weeding out, we would be very grateful for them – Oak, Beech, Alder, native Willow, Birch, Rowan, Holly, etc. Please email us at hello@livingwoodsnortheast.org.uk with approximate numbers, species and location.

Community Consultation Work

In Autumn 2018, Living Woods North East was contracted to carry out several consultation events to gather thoughts and feedback from local communities for two new woodland creations sites – one in West Cornforth and another close to Frankland prison to the north of Durham city centre.

This work came about due to Gary Hayley of the Woodland Trust recommending us to the Durham Woodland Revival (DWR) project leaders. Here’s what Gary had to say about us:

“Having Living Woods North East (LWNE) deliver the initial consultation exercises for our planned woodland creation sites at West Cornforth and Frankland Wood near Brasside has been a real help. Good engagement at both sites was carried out by LWNE staff that captured interesting feedback and comments from a number of local residents and associations that will help inform our future planning.”

The DWR project aims to conserve and restore the network of woodlands and strengthen resilience against diseases and the effects of climate change.  More info can be found on their website: http://www.woodlandrevivalproject.info

The three consultation events each began with a short presentation on the woodland creation sites, the local ecology and the character of the landscape. Draft planting plans were shown to give local community members an idea of what the woods could look like, what the important considerations were, and in what areas the local community could influence the creation of the woodlands.

Lively discussion followed as community members voiced their thoughts, ideas, concerns and questions. All three were events were well attended and provided a host of feedback which has now been passed on to Durham Woodland Revival and the Woodland Trust.


Oaks are wonderful, majestic trees, enlivening the soul and igniting the imagination. They can live for more than a thousand years and support more wildlife than any other tree in the UK (well over six hundred different species of insects, lichen, birds and mammals).

The oak is more likely to be struck by lightning than any other of the same height. There are various theories on why this is the case; their deep central root, the quality of the loamy, sandy soil in which oaks like to grow, and the many hollow, water filled cells that run through the oak’s Cambium – the inner bark of the trunk.

This may be part of the reason why the tree is intimately connected with various gods of thunder such as Zeus, Taranis and Thor. Tree sap, a poor conductor of electricity, transforms into steam when lightning strikes, causing splinters of bark to explode off the oak. For Norse men and women, this was nothing other than Thor striking his fabled hammer, Mjǫllnir, down through the sky and into the oak. No surprise that they called the oak ‘Thor’s Tree’.

The Bowthorpe Oak – over 1,000 years old

In the North East, our very own river Derwent holds an ancient link to the Oak, its name in Celtic meaning ‘oak river’. The druids, whoever they were, most likely had a tightly woven relationship with the oak, and with oak forests, since the word ‘druid’ itself literally means Oak-Knower (duir, being the Sanskirt root word for ‘oak’, and the Indo-European ‘wid’ meaning ‘to know’). Duir is also the source of the word ‘door’, suggesting that the oak tree is doorway into deeper knowledge, or perhaps, to some, a gateway into the ‘otherworld’. Whether this ‘otherworld’ is an altered state of perception – a different way seeing – or a science confounding literal other world, we will leave for you to decide.

Interesting Facts about Oaks:

  • During World War 2, acorns were used to make coffee!
  • The headaches you get from drinking too much Australian red wine are caused from the tannins picked up from the wine’s oak barrel (or maybe you just drank too much).
  • In the 1800s, a ship of the British Navy required around 4,000 oaks for construction
  • The Royal Oak is the third most common pub name in the UK
  • Galls – the little growths that can be found on the bark, leaves, acorns and pretty much every other part of the oak, are actually the protective enclosures of insect larvae, usually made by wasps.
  • These oak galls have been used to make ink since the time of the Roman Empire. Issac Newton used it to write down his calculations.
  • To make this ink, simply take a couple ounces of crushed galls, soaked in water overnight, and strain into an once of ferrous sulphate. Easy!
  • A mature oak can absorb 50 gallons of water in a single day.
  • One of Britain’s oldest coins – the six pence coin – was inscribed with an oak tree.
  • Many businesses in the UK, which have nothing to do with trees, use the oak for their company logo (we discovered this when researching for our logo).

Do you know anything about oak trees you’d like to share with us? Anything we got wrong? Or perhaps you have a personal story about these incredible trees. Please feel free to add your comments below!

New Trees for Northumberland in National Tree Week

Living Woods North East celebrated the start of National Tree Week 2017 by planting hundreds of trees, in the first in a series of tree planting sessions to take place across the region.

People’s Kitchen and Living Woods North East


Volunteers from the People’s Kitchen, in Newcastle, joined forces to plant 200 trees in Allendale, Northumberland, last Saturday marking the start of of the UK’s biggest annual festival of trees.

Events were also held in Nunsmoor Park, Fenham, on Sunday  and Mountfield Primary School, Kenton, on Wednesday

Julian Briggs, the group’s coordinator, said, “Its not just about planting trees, but also about engaging and empowering people and communities to enjoy, celebrate and enhance their local environment.”

Volunteers are at the heart of the sessions and those interested in taking part can find out more by contacting the group through their website.livingwoodsnortheast.org.uk


The group is looking to plant 8,000 trees throughout 2017-2018 across Northumberland, Durham and Tyne and Wear.


They have already planted thousands of acorns and run several tree planting sessions with schools and community groups across the North East.

All the trees are sourced from locally collected seeds and there are 8,000 more waiting to be planted.


Several new sites are earmarked for planting and the group is collaborating with local and national organisations to create new woodlands and connect people with nature through tree planting