Felling of the beech wood

There was a chance to meet Justin Williamson, a woodlands officer from Leeds CC on Sat 13th December at 9.30 am. Approximately 12 people turned up representing both sides of the argument for/against the regeneration of the beech wood and other associated felling.  You can read the notes from the meeting on 27th Nov on a separate page. 

It now seems that no felling licence was ever issued; all plans have been postponed until further consultation has taken place.

You can put follow up comments on this site as  Justin, FGVWs and Bill Urry, local councillor for Roundhay, are among many following our blog. Use menu on RHS of screen to choose a page for your comments

Background information

A felling licence has been granted to Leeds City council, acting in conjunction with a core group from Friends of Gledhow Valley woods (FGVWs), and gives permission for a large area of beech wood on the Roundhay side and an even larger number of mixed trees on the Chapel A llerton side of Gledhow Valley Woods to be felled in the very near future.

Opinon seems to be very divided as regards the future of these woods and this site aims to collect comments from anyone interested in having their say. Some people see the way forward as gradually felling the beech wood and trees on the other side of the road, and replacing them with a mixed species wood. Others argue that the beech wood in particular has historical relevance and needs to be recognised as a conservation site to be preserved for as long as possible. Feelings are running high as people feel passionate about their beliefs but we want to avoid causing any more hostility between factions: we just want to offer an opportunity to air your views on a plan which has very far-reaching consequences for the landscape of Gledhow Valley woods.

Please post your comments and/or reply to any comments on this site. Search for pages on RHS of screen

30 thoughts on “Felling of the beech wood

  1. It seems a bit of a contradiction what Friends of Gledhow Wood are doing – i.e. trying to save a large chunk of the woods from being built on at one end, but then decimating a 80-120 trees at the other!? the argument that they were all planted at the same time and will fall down at the same time doesn’t make sense to me. They are clearly all different ages and by taking these large numbers out all at once (whether to replant or not) will expose the very steep and shallow hills, which will get washed away with no mature trees to keep the land in place.
    I accept that more diversity of trees would be wonderful for a range of wildlife, but on the other hand, the west end of the valley is that. Can the East not stay as a historic Beech wood?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Can it please be made clear that FGVW have not instigated any of this, Leeds City Council and the Forestry Commission are the ones responsible for the felling of the trees.


      1. Hi Naomi, Thanks for the reply. i went on the talk/walk on Saturday day and realise now that FGVW are not the instigators and that this is still in the “talking” stage. Hopefully, there will be more communication with the locals. 🙂


  2. I live opposite the woods and walk in these magical woods regularly and I am horrified about the felling of these Beech trees – I would go as far as saying that it criminal to chop down a single tree!! Many of these trees have taken hundreds of years to grow and they form part of a rare and extraordinarily beautiful green space in inner city Leeds. I have taken hundreds of photos of the trees in the woods and chopping them down will not only alter the fine balance of the ecosystem and wildlife of these woods, but would radically alter the landscape of the woods, thereby changing the character of the woods!

    It beggars belief that such a license could be obtained when this is supposed to be a conservation area and I believe that these woods should be preserved exactly as they are and NOT tampered with, so that they can be enjoyed for generations to come. Also there is no evidence about what might happen to these woods if they are interfered with in this way, by human beings trying meddle with nature – the woods have survived and thrived for hundreds of years, as this is an ancient woodland, with it’s own natural cycle of growth and development.
    I feel strongly, that ecological considerations need to be taken into account:
    • In the ‘Leeds Unitary Development plan’, much of the valley is designated by Leeds City Council, as a Leeds Nature Area (LNA 42) reflecting its importance to wildlife and local people.
    • Extensive area of wood that is noted as Ancient Woodland.
    • Part of the SE corner of the woods has recently been designated a Regionally Important Geological Site because of Elland Flag exposures of Carboniferous age rock (about 300 million years old).
    • Over 184 species of plants have been recorded, and 74 species of fungi.
    • Over 115 birds have been recorded including 40 species breeding and around 30 resident species.
    • Chopping trees will affect the local environment, as these trees act as a ‘green lung’ and may well have an impact on local air pollution and not to mention the unaccounted damage it will do for decades to come.

    I think it will be a travisity if a single tree is chopped down.

    I STRONGLY and WHOLLY OPPOSED to the felling of these trees and OBJECT to this and believe this will not not only radically alter the unique and ancient woodland that many of us love so much, but it will threaten the ecological & environmental integrity of the woods. Leeds City Council & their license partners need to show integrity and more respect to the these trees and what they represent! HANDS OFF GLEDHOW VALLEY WOODS.

    I would be happy to attend any meetings organised to oppose this dreadful plan to fell the Beechwood.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I hate cutting trees down – I have my own woodland with 4,500 trees which were planted very close 10 years ago as part of a plan to encourage wildlife but they have now reached a stage that some should potentially be harvested as a way of allowing other specimens to flourish – otherwise they will struggle for light. But which to choose……?

    I welcome wider debate on our woods here at Gledhow Valley, its future and its management as this extends interaction with the woods and local ownership. Both sides of the argument are not without merit.

    Just to clarify however regarding certain points made above – the Beech wood in GVW is believed to have been planted in the early 20th Century so is not hundreds of years old. If so, this area has about 50 years to go before the majority of the trees start to naturally expire. If they were planted earlier, that date will be upon us sooner. Either way, this part of the woods is I believe not an ancient woodland (which is defined as having existed continuously since 1600).

    If you look at images of this area on Leodis, much of the Valley was open fields up to the 1930’s. The Carriageway through the centre of the Woods attests to the fact that a great deal of the woods was set out deliberately as parkland. So – lots of intervention and change in the woods as a whole, but what fragments of ancient woodland we have within FGW should be retained.

    The Beech wood is however a monoculture, so from an ecological perspective, works against bio-diversity. Regarding acting as a green lung, younger trees will take up more carbon than mature trees. From this perspective, an ecological justification can be made for felling. That of course is a different argument from a conservation angle and a view on visual amenity.

    The difference between these works (should they proceed) and the proposed housing development is that the area affected by the proposed felling would remain an open, green space which can be further colonised by different wildlife whereas the housing development would remove an open, green space contiguous with the woods.

    I would hope that the commentator above when referring to the need for license partners to show integrity, implying that they currently are not, is not referring to the volunteers of FGVW – as this would be a blow to the morale of individuals who have put hundreds of hours of work in to the woods with best intentions and may just happen to have a different but sincerely held view.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My wife and I live locally to the Gledhow Valley Woods and have enjoyed walking in them daily for 30 years. Every Spring in particular we have delighted in the beauty of the woods and the mature beech trees are an integral part of this beauty. It is genuinely uplifting to walk through the woods at any time of year. We would both feel extraordinarily sad to see those beech trees felled and I’m confident that so too would many many residents of Leeds. I cannot imagine that there can be any benefit that would be worth spoiling so many people’s appreciation of this small corner of nature on our doorstep.

    There is something very special about trees that have lived through so many decades of history. To fell them would in our view be an act of vandalism.


  5. My family and I walk our dog regularly in Gledhow valley Woods. It is an area of natural beauty due to the beech trees – due to their evocative strong shapes and lines they promote healing and provide an opportunity to be in touch with nature whilst living in a busy city. They have certainly helped me over the last few years to process the death of my parents. There are many benches with memorials inscribed throughout the woods suggesting that the woods represent an area that holds special meaning for many who use it.
    In our time of conservation and fighting global warming I just cannot understand the rationale for felling the healthy beech trees – I have heard they are a modern beech plantation from WW1 on an ancient Woodland. OK ……and ??? ……
    I am totally bewildered by the amount of yellow dots that I have seen as I walk through the woods, I just don’t understand it. I feel extremely saddened and quite angry. PLEASE DO NOT FELL THESE TREES.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did start a petition but then this blog took over and it works so much better because you can reply to other people’s messages and have your say. Please add a comment about how you feel about the regeneration plans for the woods. At the moment we are collecting and sharing information and putting forward our viewpoints. The officer in charge of this project has the address for this site and can see what people are saying/thinking. The felling has been postponed because of the wet weather and to give the council more time to consider options. I don’t think they were aware of the strength of feeling before we started this campaign. We are trying to avoid conflict and work together with everyone to come to a satisfactory solution, which may mean compromise on both sides.


    2. hello Jean
      I did start this discussion with a petition and will put some of the comments on here. We gathered over 50 supporters on this petition before we came up with this more effective way of letting people have their say. Please add your comments to one of the pages on this site or reply to any comment.We are eager to collect as many viewpoints as possible on this very important issue in our neighbourhood.


  6. I am sorry that I am on a course on Saturday and so will not be able to come to Justin’s talk.

    I have to say that whilst walking in the woods, I have always found great tranquility, peace and healing and now when I walk through and see these hideous flourescent green marks on so many trees – I feel deeply saddened and actually quite stressed…. as felling these trees is unecessary and will be quite destructive to what the woods themselves and what they represent to so many people.

    The woods are perfect as they are…. we do n’t need another manicured park…. there is already Roundhay park up the road.

    The other very troubling aspect to this is the idea that the felled trees would be sold for revenue?? I think this is what has been suggested? Please correct me if I’m wrong?

    But if this is true – this again is very worrying and makes me wonder whether this is another ‘innovative’ scheme for a desperate local authority to raise funds ‘to manage’ green spaces at a time of austerity? If so, this indeed is very disturbing and seems somewhat ironic that for some trees to remain in this green haven – other trees will have to be ‘sacrificed’…. and so does this mean that everything around us must now be exploited for revenue/profit?? And that even nature around us and these trees must now pay their way in this macabre, ‘brave new world’ of public funding cuts???


    1. Firdaws, I feel you are very seriously missing the point of the works and the purpose behind it all. In fact I feel you have no justification for such stress. Let go of your stress and anger and you’ll be able to see more clearly.

      To ensure the long term continuation of these woods the works should be carried out, in some manner. The benefits have been thoroughly explained elsewhere.

      This will be paid for through the revenue that will be provided by harvesting the wood.

      This is a practical, sensible solution to the fact that there are no other funds at present. Even if other funds were present, why not harvest the wood anyway? I cannot think of one good reason not to use the wood that will be removed to pay for works. It’s basic good sense. Let the woods sustain themselves – the old becomes the new. It’s the cycle of life. To create anew, sometimes we need to dismantle.

      The long term gain simply outweighs the short term loss.

      Or do you not care about the longer term viability of these woods? The comments just confuse me as it appears selfish to NOT do the works.

      I have now had conversations with people involved and there will be no manicured Park.

      What we have is more akin to a park than what will replace the removed beech. There is so little diversity this part of the wood. It was entirely manufactured by humans who had little understanding of the lack of biodiversity a monoculture would bring.

      Life will be increased by doing this. Please take a step back and consider the point of this plan. The people who back the improvements care at least as much about this woodland as you do.

      The woods will not stop representing tranquility after the works. Nothing really changes, except for the better, for the long term, for wildlife, for birds, bees, for flora and fauna, for humanity, for mother earth.

      Please, I urge you, look beyond yourself and consider the long term benefits this will bring.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am very concerned and very angry about the felling of the trees in Gledhow Valley Woods, the trees , the Beech trees in particular sustain me on a daily basis, I breathe in their peace and stillness, and moved by their changing beauty throughout the year. It makes me very angry when the Woodland Trust, the national charity, states thay Beech Trees are native to Britain and good for wildlife.Where is the logic in felling the Beech and tearing the very heart out of the wood, how destructive is that, the felling is only bringing in an early death time for the trees , so basically they are going to die off all together. Logical?? The Woodland Trust also states that Beech Trees can live a 150 -300 years.

        A number of years ago when the folk of Friends of Gledhow Valley Woods and the Council, cut down a number of the trees at the top end of the wood, again for no apparent recent it was a place of devastation, it was so awful that I couldn’t walk in that part of the woods for twelve months.

        Why is it only now that we know about about this planning decision? Why didn’t the Council and Friends of Gledhow Valley Woods inform the public and have a consultation then? When was the planning permission submitted? When were the original consultations done with the public who use these woods. Why is that we only know now? Is this a legal situation?

        I am very , very angry, I was told that there was to be a meeting in the community , a public meeting ,where the issues of the felling of the trees was to be discussed. I know the walk of the yellow spots really well, but if we can’t speak out for the trees we desperately want to save, who will speak for them? A walk is not enough. We do need a public meeting. How can we protest if on the walk we are not allowed to say anything. Note I am not against cutting down the somewhat straggly and diseased trees around the lake.

        A final thought many people do not belong ,to “The Friends of Gledhow Valley Woods,” as they have busy lives, children and families, work etc or others may be elderly and can’t take on the tasks that the friends do, as I am, or like me they are so disgusted about the trees felled a number of years ago , rather then looking after this beautiful Beech Wood, they are destroying the woods, all because Beech Trees have a canopy, that is the way of Beech Trees and Beech woods

        The Council and the Friends of Gledhow Valley Woods are are for the felling, “so that all the trees fall down together” is cruel and illogical, rather then letting them all fall down naturally together. Where is the logic? Let these Trees live out their lives in peace and bring joy and peace to so many, who are truly friends, if not by any memembership of Gledhow Valley Woods.They are the users of the woods!

        Once again when was the planning application for felling these trees published ?- and when was the consultation done? Was a public notice or notices put up in prominent parts of the wood, for the users of the woods to see?

        and yes I am very emotional these trees are friends to me and part of the world that gives me sustenance and peace.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. The small area of Gledhow Valley Woods that is dominated by beech scarcely justifies the term “monoculture”, and certainly does not merit the negative implications of that word.

    For one thing, there are many other species of trees close by, and all around the beeches.
    Also, the very fact that the beeches, when in leaf, suppress much other vegetation allows for wonderful displays of bluebells and other flowers in spring; and it allows people to walk among the trees at all times of year, unimpeded for example by the brambles and nettles that often disrupt walks through the “natural countryside.”
    The beech leaves on the woodland floor are not a problem but contribute to the loveliness of the landscape throughout the year.
    The trees are particularly beautiful, with an unusually straight habit of growth, and present an opportunity, very rare in England, to experience walking amongst living plants that are so much taller than we are. Other native trees all have their own good qualities, but nothing can match the uplifting impact of a beechwood.

    Living close by and having been very familiar with these woods for over 30 years, I can confirm that they do not lack biodiversity. Besides all the different plants and fungi, many birds, squirrels, bats and foxes can be found there every day, and deer occasionally. Admittedly there are fewer rats among the beeches than in the more mixed woodland nearby, but personally I find that a relief.

    I do not understand why it is seen as necessary to cut down any of the beech trees. If they get old and die, then let them blow down in a gale, and be replaced by their own young saplings. As long as we avoid the woods in stormy weather – and we all naturally do – this will not do us any harm, nor be a threat to anyone. The only threats to a person walking in the woods are the numerous dogs that rush up aggressively, as well as causing pollution underfoot: for many people, these are the factors that daily mar their enjoyment of the woods.

    Cutting down a large number of the beech trees, as proposed, would have a hugely deleterious impact on this important amenity, and would be an extremely serious blow for many local residents.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Just a quick but very important point Terry, the bluebells would not be threatened by the opening up of the canopy:

    “Bluebells are a species of deciduous woodland over much of their range, flowering and leafing early before the canopy closes in late spring. They may also be found growing under bracken or Japanese knotweed, perennial plants which also form stands with a dense summer canopy.

    They are most successful on slightly acid soils; the same niche in alkaline conditions may be occupied by other species such as Mercurialis perennis.

    As a species adapted to woodlands, the young shoots are able to penetrate through a thick layer of leaf litter,and bluebells are often used as an indicator species to identify ancient woodland.

    Bluebells are also frequently found in hedgerows, and in the west of their range they can be found growing in open habitats, including coastal meadows.”



    I have been approached by many people about Council intentions towards long established, and much loved, beech groves in Gledhow Valley. I do very much share their concerns, and I have had urgent discussions with senior officers and local volunteers on what is being planned.

    I have been assured that there is absolutely no intention to bulk fell beech trees along the valley – not only would this have a far reaching impact on the woodland, it would not even be commercially viable. However, active management is needed to encourage biodiversity and to maintain the woods for the longer term as many existing trees approach the end of their lives, and die back or become unsafe. At the moment therefore, officers simply wish to consult on different options for longer term management of the woods. No decision has been made on how best to proceed and I for one will keep in close touch with the proposals as they are developed, as everyone is very anxious that the character of the woods, including the beech trees, is maintained.

    Meanwhile, I would like to thank the many volunteer groups, officers and individuals, who do so much to maintain the woods for us all. Much of this work is unseen, but the woodland paths, wildflowers, river bank maintenance, litter clearing, and much else is testament to their hard work, and I hope that the debate on the future of this woodland will recognise the excellent work quietly going on throughout the year.


    1. I hope we are still in the consultation part of the process; this blog was started because a felling licence has been granted and an extensive cluster of trees was to be removed from the beech wood if a contractor could be found. Let’s hope the council and the Forestry Commission will listen to different viewpoints, consider modifications to the plans and realise that this is a much-loved and admired part of the valley as many of these comments prove.


  10. When we moved to Leeds in the late 80’s, I thought we were moving to a grey, industrial, depressing northern city. We chose to live near Gledhow Valley Woods and they are part of the reason why my views about Leeds changed. My children and I know the woods very well, through all seasons and all weathers, we’ve appreciated their beauty, explored their secrets. It seems to me that what we are getting upset about is the lack of consultation about the proposals. Please lets open a dialogue so that we can understand each other, and restore some harmony. What is all the rush?


  11. Like many others, i too have loved and enjoyed this beautiful woodland in all seasons over the last 35 years. Walking there now, and seeing the orange dots on so many old, characterful and, above all, healthy trees is heartbreaking. (Cllr Urry assures us there is no intention to ‘bulk fell’ – he clearly hasn’t been for a walk in the woods anytime recently!!). While I am sure FGVW and others have the very best of intentions, I simply cannot see why, as Terry (above) says, the trees cannot be allowed to live out their natural life span and expire naturally. Then, if it’s really necessary, new species could be introduced as and when appropriate.
    As well as the visual disfiguration and soil erosion that would be result from this utterly unnecessary proposed felling, I am fearful that the ugly and empty (even if only for a limited number of years) space left will be so much more vulnerable to fall-out from the ever-present budget cuts – and ultimately developers will make their move. And if the woods are no longer the attractive and much-frequented paradise they are now, there may not be so many people stirred to defend them.

    There are so many areas of our city that would benefit from the time and resources the proposed ‘management’ would entail. For goodness sake, go and manage something that needs managing and leave our beautiful beechwood alone!


    1. I think the recent windy weather has more than anything proven the need for woodland management. Without it, more trees will fall, and not necessarily sick ones either. I’m not saying the wind is going to blow all the trees down in the next couple of years, but if not managed, falling trees could become hazardous to future generations


  12. I have been down to the woods frequently, and I think it very unfortunate indeed that the trees were marked in the way that happened. I would also have expected local Councillors for the Wards covering the wood to have been approached on the whole issue at the outset.

    However as soon as I heard reports of plans for the beech trees, I met a senior officer who was able to assure me there would be no bulk felling. This was because, apart from the overriding and very sensitive conservation issues and the fact that at that stage only a consultation was taking place, such an operation would have had to be self funding, and it would not have been viable for a commercial company to bring in heavy equipment to fell trees that could then only be sold as firewood.

    My personal view is that the beech trees are a long established and beautiful part of the landscape and while the woodland needs management, and it may be argued that the trees are imported and non native, I think it would be quite wrong to remove them en masse even to encourage wildlife. They have been there well beyond living memory and many local people have grown up loving the beech groves.

    But I am also very concerned that there should be a sensible consultation between all the different groups and people that all care passionately about these woods over their long term management, and that at the same time the brilliant voluntary work done by the local Friends Group, officers, and everyone else is recognised.


      1. I’m sure everyone would agree that the preference would be a long term maintenance programme, myself included. The issue was that money was not made available for this and the woods were neglected for some time.

        Let’s make gledhow woods a priority and make me funding available please foe future care and maintenance.


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