Peak Park woodland is facing the chop

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Woodland in part of the Peak District on the south west fringe of Sheffield is due to be chopped down next year.

The council says that the replacement of the conifer plantation in the Burbage Valley with species such as oak, birch and mountain ash will help make the area more natural and reduce the risk of fire.

Subject to final approvals, work is scheduled to start in earnest next autumn - and walkers and climbers can expect an eyesore and footpath diversions as track is laid so that heavy machinery can reach the woodland, reducing it to stumps. Timber will be removed over several months using the main Hathersage Road.

The council says it will take two to three years for the new trees to be established. Woodlands manager Ted Talbot said: “It will be a mess getting it all out and while the young woodland starts growing.”

But the long-term vision is turn the valley into something more like Padley Gorge.

The land is owned by the council and leased to the National Trust for grazing.

It was used for army training for World War Two and, at one time, it was due to be used for a reservoir. Then it was planted as a commercial conifer plantation in the early 70s, with the idea that it should look like an outline map of the British Isles. However, Cornwall failed to materialise!

Over the years, difficulty of access, the poor quality of the soil and a lack of management has resulted in the woodland not growing very well. Trees have blown over.

The area has been used for raves and camping - with the risk of a serious fire taking root in the undergrowth.

The replanting project has been drawn up as part of the Sheffield Moors Partnership, which comprises landowners, local authorities and a range of organisations. Final approval is awaited from the Peak District National Park, Natural England, the Environment Agency and the city council, and consultations are being held with the RSPB and the National Trust. Costs will be met by the Government, and it is hoped the poor quality timber will be used in biomass boilers.

The council says that replanting with native broadleaf species will make the important moorland area more attractive for wildife as well as walkers, many of whom make the short trip from Dore and Totley.

However, one walker, who asked not to be named, feared it would take ten to 15 years for the new woodland to emerge fully. “It’s a beautiful landscape and the public don’t realise that will look a mess from next September.”