Fingle Woods: National Trust and Woodland Trust team up

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Media captionThe project includes creating almost 30 miles (48km) of footpaths

A £5m project to buy and restore 825 acres of woodland in Devon has been launched by two charities.

The Woodland Trust and National Trust want to protect and restore Fingle Woods, which is on the edge of Dartmoor, in east Devon.

Their plans include creating almost 30 miles (48km) of footpaths.

They hope the project will benefit species like pied flycatcher and fritillary butterflies, which live in the ancient woodlands.

Norman Starks, operations director for the Woodland Trust, said: "Ancient woodland is the richest land habitat for species in the UK, having been present since at least 1600.

"It is the natural world's equivalent of a Grade I listed building and can't be recreated simply by planting new trees."

Mr Starks said non-native conifers were planted between 1930s and 1980s to meet timber needs for industry.

'Protected haven'

Fingle Woods has more than 525 acres of damaged ancient woodland - the equivalent of 293 football pitches - which have been planted with conifer trees.

Mr Starks said: "The best way to restore these woodlands back to their former glory is to change the canopy structure gradually, slowly removing the conifers to let the light back in.

"Restoration is the only way to protect the long-term future of the last 2% of ancient woodland that remains in the UK."

Adrian Colston, general manager of the National Trust, said: "We estimate it will be 50-70 years before this woodland is restored to anything like its former glory, but it will create a protected haven for wildlife and people to enjoy for hundreds of years to come."

The charities have launched a £5m fundraising campaign to buy the woods and to help meet restoration costs for 20 years.

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