The Faughan Valley landscape on the outskirts of Derry/Londonderry is on course to be revitalised having secured a grant for a Woodland Trust project.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has announced funding of over £50,000 for the first phase of a £1 million conservation project.

The Faughan Valley runs from the foothills of the Sperrin Mountains along the River Faughan to the outskirts of the Derry/Londonderry. Covering some 80 square miles, it has been identified as an area of strategic importance due to its precious natural features.

The river and its tributaries have well-earned environmental designations such as SSI in recognition of the huge variety of plants and animals.

Pockets of precious ancient woodland – a habitat even rarer in Northern Ireland than elsewhere in the UK – dot this famously scenic land.

The Woodland Trust will work with landowners and communities to create a ‘resilient wooded landscape’, with numerous benefits in the offing.

The fundamental aim is to restore, bolster and connect the vulnerable fragments of ancient woodland. New hedgerows, for example, will provide a continuous corridor for the valley’s wildlife, which includes the endangered red squirrel.

It’s good news for people, too. New and improved access, including quaint bridges, will open up miles of stunning woodland and riverside walks. In addition an education and activity programme will provide the chance for students and members of the public to experince the natural heritage on their doorstep.

Dave Scott, Woodland Trust Treescape project manager, said: “This is an unmissable opportunity for the Trust and for local people. By creating and protecting woodland, we’re helping to create a resilient wooded landscape that will stay strong when faced with ever increasing threats, such as flooding and tree disease.

“But a robust landscape depends upon people. We want farmers to see the practical and financial benefits – the natural capital – that trees and woodland bring. We’ll also be working with schools in the hope that young people will grow up with a real love of nature. All in all, thanks to HLF funding and National Lottery players, the project means good news for wildlife and for the people who live in, work in, or visit the Faughan Valley.”

Ancient woods are areas continuously wooded since at least 1600. Centuries-old, ancient woodland is one of our richest wildlife habitats, home to many vulnerable and rare species. This fragile and fragmented resource covers a mere 0.08% of the Northern Ireland landscape. By comparison, ancient woodland is thought to cover 2% of Britain.