Peel Bank Woodland and Conservation Trust (formerly The Peel Bank Urban Woodland Trust), was founded in 1989. It was a visionary response to the emerging evidence that the industrial activities of the world were creating an imbalance in the world's atmosphere. Now it seems commonplace, but then, the emerging realisation that the destruction of the world's forests and the release of vast quantities of carbon dioxide and other carbon gases into the atmosphere were unsustainable and, unchecked threatened the very existence of life on earth.
As a small engineering company, the then Managing Director, Gordon Swindells made the decision to lead the way in being accountable for the carbon gases released by their manufacturing activities. Working closely with the Biological Science department at Manchester University, Emerson and Renwick funded student research projects into the efficient use of energy, tree growth and the long term storage of carbon in wood products to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
In the same year, on 8th November, Margaret Thatcher, an unlikely green hero, shocked the UN with a speech on global warming.
"What we are now doing to the world, by degrading the land surfaces, by polluting the waters and by adding greenhouse gases to the air at
an unprecedented rate - all this is new in the experience of the earth. It is mankind and his activities that are changing the environment of our
planet in damaging and dangerous ways."
"Reason is humanity's special gift. It allows us to understand the structure of the nucleus. It enables us to explore the heavens. It helps us to
conquer disease. Now we must use our reason to find a way in which we can live with nature, and not dominate nature."
An interesting Radio 4 Programme 'Green Originals' gives an insight into this:
Up until 2002, regular contributions from the company were used to purchase land and fund tree planting in local areas.
Today the Trust is an independent, self-funding charity, managing over 24 acres of land which provides havens for wildlife and an environmental and educational resource for local people.
It is easy to think that woods are better left untouched to become havens for wildlife, but there are lots of simple things that we do to make our woods better places to visit and to attract wildlife whilst contributing to their upkeep and health. Before man arrived on the scene, forests covered much of the land. There would have been a mosaic of habitats within the forest, as saplings and young trees grew into the gaps created by storms or disease. Wildlife could move through the forest to suitable new habitats as old ones disappeared. The small fragmented woods that survive today and recently planted areas, are not big enough to develop this range of habitats naturally. Sensitive management maintains this diversity and allows our native woodland plants and animals to survive and thrive. Over the centuries traditional management practices not only provided supplies of timber and coppice products but maintained habitat diversity in our woods. Some of our best-loved woodland wildlife, flowers and butterflies depend for their survival on this traditional woodland management.
We encourage plant diversity in our woodlands by making sure there are a variety of light levels, from deep shade to open glades. This is maintained by regularly pruning, coppicing and felling failing trees. Leaving dead wood and old trees encourages birds including woodpeckers and tree creepers which feed off the diverse number of insects and beetles that colonise wood piles. A fascinating array of fungi has been encouraged by sensitively managing our sites.
Our sites continue to be used for research, below are a selection of research projects using our resources:
Norman, Hazel (1992) pp203-4 of PhD Thesis, University of Manchester:Industrial carbon emissions and the Greenhouse Effect.
Anon 1993 Houghton Hey Wood Student tree survey
Penney, David (1994) Spider survey of Houghton Hey: Appendix: species list.
McAlister, Erica (1995) The relationship between succession and diversity in plants and invertebrates at Haughton hey Plantation.
Dransfield, Paul (1996) A summer and autumn woodland invertebrate survey at Haughton Hey Plantation.
Anon. Site information (list of nearby sites of biological interest at Hapton, Rishton, Billington and Church.)
Allen 2000 A baseline survey of heights Wood Rishton, to elucidate relationships between vegetation, soils and the invertebrate community assemblages.
Redon, Thomas R (2001) Baseline survey of flora and fauna at Billington Urban Woodland Trust Site.
Green, Emma N. (2001) Baseline survey of Higher Elker, Billington, Lancashire 2000-2001.
Owen, Emily (2002) Baseline ecological survey of the Church Site of the Peel Bank Urban Woodland Trust.
Almond, Mark (2002) Baseline ecological survey of Hapton Site of Peel Bank Urban Woodland Trust.
Two of the Trust sites - Heights Plantation, Rishton and Houghton Hey Plantation & Ancient Woodland, Hapton are no longer owned and managed by the Trust but continue to be maintained by private owners