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Northumberland College joins Conifers for Colleges
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Kirkley Hall campus, part of Northumberland College, is the fourth college to become part of  an innovative new venture being led by the Royal Forestry Society (RFS) to keep coniferous trees on the map for the UK’s woodland managers of the future.

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Picture: Phil Tanner, RFS Education Manager, working with Northumberland College’s Kirkley Hall campus to launch a Conifers For Colleges scheme

Conifers for Colleges recognises that the challenges caused by climate change, pests and diseases mean UK timber growers may no longer be able to rely on the traditional big five coniferous timber species – Sitka Spruce, Corsican Pine, Scots Pine, Douglas fir and the larches. Foresters of the future will need to know about a wider mix of species and where they are likely to grow best.

Kirkley Hall joins Moulton College in Northamptonshire, Myerscough College near Preston, and Plumpton College in East Sussex which have already joined the Conifers for Colleges project.

Working with RFS Education Manager Phil Tanner, staff from Kirkley Hall are looking forward to receiving 400 coniferous trees made up of 18 different species and 100 additional broadleaf trees donated by Alba Trees in East Lothian,Cheviot Trees Ltd of Berwick on Tweed, and Prees Heath Nurseries of Whitchurch, Shropshire, and 500 tree guards donated by Tubex, to protect the new trees from damage.

The research data from the project will be made widely available to woodland owners and managers across the UK over the coming years via the SilviFuture database.

An area for the new research plot on the Kirkley Hall campus has already been identified and planting will be in the autumn.

Marcus Clinton, Vice Principal Enterprise and Innovation at Kirkley Hall said: “We are delighted to be supporting the Royal Forestry Society education programme – Conifers for Colleges. This project will allow our highly regarded forestry and arboricultural department a great opportunity to get students involved with planting, survey work, tree mensuration, thinning and felling as part of developing an onsite learning and research facility with the new conifer plantation. This fits well with the work of Northumberland College’s Kirkley Hall Campus, where a site has been earmarked for this exciting development, and this project also fits in well with Northumberland and further equips our arboricultural students for work and securing jobs – which we are pleased to report a very high percentage do.

"The fact that industry is also supporting the planting of conifers through the RFS is wonderful and further cements existing links with the College and we remain very grateful for their support as we train the next generation.” 

RFS Education Manager Phil Tanner explained: “Students will be involved in planting and monitoring the development of the trees annually and in developing a variety of research projects, making the information freely available on the SilviFuture database so that woodland owners and managers across the UK will be able to access the information to see what trees might be compatible with their growing conditions.

“The project is providing a unique opportunity for the students involved to get first-hand knowledge of species about which many within the current forestry industry know very little – and it will mean they will be exceptionally well placed when they qualify to help ensure the UK’s timber industry flourishes.

“The RFS will also be publishing the research data and we are keen for more nurseries and others within the industry to get involved in this exciting opportunity to help shape our commercial woodlands for the future.”