Middleton St George Parish Council has recently secured external funding to progress a woodland management scheme for the area of woodland adjacent to the River Tees at The Front, Middleton One Row.
Middleton One Row’s historic character is defined by its proximity to the River Tees. The importance of views to the character of the village is noted in both this management plan and Darlington Borough Council’s 2010 Conservation Area Appraisal for Middleton One Row:
‘The Front is where the river meets the Conservation Area, with elevated views across the river to the North Yorkshire countryside. Part of the route of the Teesdale Way runs along the river and is accessible from ‘The Front’.
‘Most of the areas of green space around the village are designated as Areas of High Landscape Value or Village Green. It is the quality of these spaces that remind the observer how close the countryside is; the view across the River Tees from The Front is a particularly prominent example of this and should be protected.’
The Parish produced a management plan for this area in 2014, with support from Groundwork NE & Cumbria. One of its aims was to ‘maintain visual amenity of The Front, in particular river views valued by local residents’.
These views have only recently been lost, as many local residents can recall. Up until the 1950s the Green was a sheep meadow but since grazing ceased trees have gradually colonised the lower slopes and closed in the canopy.
This project will sensitively address the unhindered growth and natural succession of this woodland area to help regain some of these culturally important views whilst sensitively managing this amenity woodland.
An independent Arboricultural Impact Assessment (AIA) was commissioned by the Parish in 2018 to identify trees of high value. Darlington Borough Council’s Ecologist and Arboricultural Officer were also consulted, all prior to the applications for funding. This was to ensure that trees of a high ecological value are retained.
A sketch plan produced by Groundwork shows areas where we propose to selectively thin new, younger growth and lift the canopy of some larger trees in order to sensitively open up these views again, providing small windows to the river. Larger trees would only be felled if they were deemed to be dangerous (i.e, dead, dying or diseased).
As much of the timber removed as possible will be used on site to provide habitat piles to enhance biodiversity or chipped to help improve informal access paths.
This project is also supported by the Friends of The Front Action group and it is hoped that once the woodland management work is done the Friends will be able to continue to maintain the thinned out areas more easily to prevent the blockage of views in future.