Skyline used at Whinlatter Forest

A brand new arrival is giving foresters a very big lift on the Forestry Commission estate at Whinlatter Forest in north Cumbria.

Skyline at work in Hobcarton

Skyline at work in Hobcarton

It’s a Skyline cable crane which is being used to clear an area of woodland at Hobcarton as part of the Forestry Commission’s work to improve the country’s Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

The machine is designed to extract trees from difficult, steep sites that other machinery cannot travel along.

It is similar to the cranes that have recently been seen on TV programmes like Extreme Logging and Axe Men!

Part funded by Bassenthwaite Reflections, it helps to manage the forest in the Bassenthwaite Lake area and assists in preventing sedimentation of the lake. This protects the wildlife that lives there including the vendace fish.

Adrian Jones, Forestry Commission Whinlatter manager, says:

“We’re using local contractors to operate the Skyline which means we are not only improving the environment for conservation and landscape value but also supporting the local economy.

Skyline. Picture Forestry Commission

Skyline. Picture Forestry Commission

“We’re extracting the whole tree including the branches to speed up the recovery of special habitats.”

The tree trunks are being processed for paper production at a local mill in Workington and the branches will be sent to a wood-fuelled power station.

The work at Whinlatter is all part of the Forestry Commission’s ongoing efforts to meet the Government’s target to improve the country’s SSSIs by 2010.

It is using the Skyline to clear a total of 13 hectares of Sitka spruce at Hobcarton. A further 11 hectares of young trees have also being cleared to bring the Buttermere Fells SSSI back into favourable condition.

It’s hoped heather and bilberry will naturally regenerate after the harvesting is complete and this will benefit a range of upland heath wildlife.

Adrian Jones continues:

“The work is progressing well and we’re well on track to be finished by the end of the year.

“The unique and varied habitats of upland heath SSSIs have developed over hundreds of years, and it is part of our role to protect and enhance these special areas, so everyone can continue to enjoy these wild and wonderful environments.”

SSSIs have been established to conserve and protect the best of the country’s wildlife and geological heritage for the benefit of present and future generations.

The SSSI around Hobcarton is prime merlin and peregrine habitat.

However, many SSSIs are currently in a poor condition and The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has set itself the target of ensuring that, by 2010, 95 per cent of these areas should be in a ‘favourable’ or at least a ‘recovering condition’. Already, the Forestry Commission has reached a total of 98%

Defra is funding work by the Forestry Commission to conserve woodland-related Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), many of which are among the most beautiful parts of the country.

For more information on the Forestry Commission in North West England visit

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