Landscape-scale programme to restore South Pennines uplands announced

Trees growing at Gorpley reservoir
Energy and environment Land and recreation


  •  The National Trust, Yorkshire Water and the Woodland Trust working together to create 350 hectares of woodland, install thousands of natural flood management interventions and restore peatland
  • Work will reduce flood risk for hundreds of homes, while improving habitats and water quality and capturing carbon
  • Two public meetings in April will give people chance to learn more about plans

A partnership project between the National Trust, Yorkshire Water and the Woodland Trust has announced a landmark programme of work to restore and improve the UK’s uplands.

The ‘Landscapes for Water’ programme will focus on restoring five areas in the South Pennines, from Hepstonstall Moor in the north to Marsden Moor in the south, including planting 350 hectares of native trees in the small valleys, or ‘cloughs’.

Long term, it’s hoped this new woodland could provide homes for threatened species including black grouse, pine marten and red squirrel. It’s also hoped it will boost populations for birds like redstart, pied flycatcher, ring ouzel and nightjar.

As well as the benefits for wildlife, the new woodland will capture carbon, improve water quality and provide flood protection for homes in the South Pennines by slowing the flow of water across the landscape. The trees will form part of the White Rose Forest.

There are also plans to install 3,500 leaky dams across the five areas, which will further reduce flood risk by encouraging water to soak slowly into the landscape. This will also help to reduce the risk of fire and drought, as well as improving the conditions for forming peat.

As part of the project, the programme team will be hosting community planting and education days with local residents where people can learn more about the project and its ambitions to restore this precious landscape.

A number of ecological surveys have already been commissioned, and consultation has taken place with the Forestry Commission, Natural England and RSPB to analyse all survey results and design the most ecologically sensitive and beneficial woodland.

The work will build on the success of the ‘Growing Resilience’ project at Yorkshire Water’s Gorpley Reservoir near Todmorden. More than 100,000 trees have been planted and 350 hectares of upland landscape has been restored in a project run by the National Trust, Yorkshire Water, the Woodland Trust and the White Rose Forest.

Two public meetings, where people can learn more about the plans for their area, will take place on 18 April in Marsden – where the project area March Haigh is located – and 20 April in Ripponden – near Baitings Reservoir.

Jess Yorke, programme manager for the National Trust, said: “The National Trust and Yorkshire Water are two of the biggest landowners in this region, so we have a responsibility to make sure we’re looking after the landscape to make sure it’s resilient to climate change.

“We’ve seen the impact of our partnership work at places like Gorpley Reservoir, Hardcastle Crags and Marsden Moor and we’re excited to combine our different expertise to benefit more of our uplands. Peat and trees are such an important carbon store and restoring these landscapes will have huge benefits for people as well as nature.

“This is an ambitious programme of work, and a lot of planning has gone into ensuring we create resilient landscapes that work with nature and are protected for generations to come.”

Granville Davies, water and catchment strategy manager for Yorkshire Water, said: “The benefits for people living in the Colne, Upper Calder and Holme valleys are huge, as this project will not only restore the landscape, but reduce flood risk and improve water quality.

“As landowners, it’s vital to restore our uplands to turn them back into carbon sinks too. Planting trees in the right place can reduce flood risk, mitigate carbon emissions and boost wildlife. Putting nature-based solutions in the ground now means long term benefits to our customers and society, and tree planting forms part of our aim of becoming carbon net zero by 2030.

“Crucially we also want new woodlands to provide opportunities for people to get out and enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits that spending time in the natural environment can provide.”

For more information, visit the project page here;

Book a place at the public meetings; for Marsden and for Ripponden.