A RETIRED GP admitted his family had been “overwhelmed with generosity” after fire destroyed 40 per cent of their woodland plantation project.

Seven fire crews tacked the blaze, at the Haydon Fell Plantation, north of Haydon Bridge, on Sunday, May 31, while the damping down process continued for several days.

Since the high profile incident, Dr Steve Ford said he and his family had received offers of replacement trees from members of the public.

“We’ve been absolutely overwhelmed with generosity,” he said. “People have been genuinely saddened by what happened, and have been very keen to support us.

“Some people have offered us trees, while others have offered to come and work on site for us. We are enormously grateful.”

Dr Ford, who worked as GP at Haydon Bridge, said he would only accept trees that people already had, and no longer required.

“We don’t want any financial help,” he said. “We’ll happily accept trees which are suitable, as long as people aren’t going out and buying them.”

To recreate the plantation, Dr Ford said all new trees must be natural forest trees, such as oak, chestnut, hawthorn, blackthorn, and willow.

Dr Ford said planting would not begin until November at the earliest. In the meantime, improvements would be made to the site, with the creation of more ponds, tracks and fire breaks.

He added: “I’m learning a lot just walking around the site in the aftermath of this. Biology is already starting to take over, and new shoots are already starting to come through.”

Dr Ford, who served as a GP at Haydon Bridge, said his wife, Dr Jean Ford, bought the 50-acre site 12 years ago as an investment in the environment, wildlife and birdlife.