By Andy Hirst

A picturesque wood near Slaithwaite is being transformed into sustainable woodland and a community orchard by a dedicated band of volunteers … and more help is needed.

Rotcher Wood is near Huddersfield Narrow Canal just out of the village and the volunteers have been working hard on several schemes to preserve and enhance it while protecting and attracting wildlife.

The main aim is to plant and nurture trees and bushes using only natural and sustainable methods and materials. This has been done mainly with birch saplings which have been salvaged from derelict industrial sites.

The volunteers have cleared brambles and major troublesome weed Himalayan balsam, cleared paths, planted wildflowers and helped to organise and run community events.

Projects have included planting 700 sapling trees, a natural woodland pond, a willow dome shelter and habitat for wild bees.

A Rotcher Wood spokesman said: “Our aim is to restore the woodland, enhance what’s already there and aim for a place where nature is thriving.

“We’ll be opening up progressively as it becomes established. There will be paths along with places to sit, relax and enjoy what a woodland has to offer. Small footbridges lead over streams and marshy patches.”

The community orchard was set up more than 10 years ago and now features apple, plum, cherry and pear trees.

Trees play a vital role in the eco system by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen along with stabilising the soil but rather than just planting quick growing conifers the volunteers have only planted native trees from seedlings found in the local area.

The spokesman added: “This was so we can be sure the native wildlife and insects can continue to use their usual food sources and habitats. Native species thrive far more easily because they are adapted to the soils and climate and are easier to maintain.

“Our efforts have resulted in native plants such as herbs, grasses and wildflowers gradually returning to Rotcher Wood and re-establishing themselves. A diverse flora is a good sign of the health and balance of nature.

“A real reward for our work is the numerous creatures that find food, shelter and nests in the wood. Robins, blackbirds, tits, chiffchaffs and woodpeckers are appearing more often along with frogs hatching in the streams.

“What we are doing is managing the site completely sustainably with minimum habitat disturbance and maximum biodiversity.”

To find out more about the work going on in Rotcher Wood go to

To volunteer, email

* Copyright for this story belongs to freelance journalist ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire agency AH! PR ( specialising in stories for the media, press releases, blogging, copywriting, scriptwriting and applying for awards.