ENVIRONMENTALISTS are gradually transforming a woodland plantation project which was ravaged by fire last summer.

A huge plume of smoke could be seen for miles around the Haydon Fell Plantation, north of Haydon Bridge, on May 31 last year.

Seven fire crews tacked the blaze, while the damping down process continued for several days afterwards.

The fire destroyed about 40 per cent of the extensive site, where retired Haydon Bridge GP Steve Ford and his family had inherited and developed a woodland project.

In the aftermath of the incident, Dr Ford expressed his gratitude to fire crews, and also to members of the public who had offered to donate replacement trees.

Speaking this week, Dr Ford said: “Things have moved along quite rapidly.

“We’ve had a lot of support with volunteers and eco-enthusiasts coming along and planting trees.”

Work so far has included excavations to create new roads, as well as a ford, bridge, and a new circular track, to make the site more accessible and to safeguard it in the future.

Dr Ford said project hoped to plant a further 12,000 trees over the winter, as well as wind breaks of 15-metres thick, using 15 different species behind solid oak.

He added that work had also started on fencing and walling at the plantation.

Dr Ford, who served as a GP at Haydon Bridge, said his wife, Dr Jean Ford, bought the 50-acre site almost 13 years ago as an investment in the environment, wildlife and birdlife.

He said the family had invested heavily in the plantation, since inheriting the site with 38,000 trees back in 2008.

“We’re pleased with how things have gone,” said Dr Ford. “What happened last summer was awful and we are very grateful for the work of the fire crews and also the support we have received from concerned members of the public, as well as volunteers and eco-enthusiasts.