A WOMAN has transformed a 160-acre barren fell she bought - by planting 275,000 trees.

Sally Phillips purchased Low Fell, in the Lake District, via auction three years ago with her initiative 'Buy Land, Plant Trees' with the hopes of transforming it into a nature reserve.

Low Fell sits above Loweswater on the west of the Lakes and has a summit just under 1,400ft (427m).

A fell is a high and barren landscape feature, usually a mountain or moor-covered hill.

Sally has transformed it into a thriving woodland with 275,000 trees have been planted so far. More than half of these were in the planting season just gone, which typically occurs from November to March.

Sally, from Workington, said: "What I have realised is when you are planting trees, you are planting far into the future.

"Low Fell is very difficult terrain as it is steep and craggy - so you don't just put a spade in and plant a tree.

"It's been quite a journey but it is about giving back to nature.

"Onwards and upwards we say!"

Sally said the goal was to plant for carbon sequestration, flood mitigation and biodiversity.

She said: "Trees that are not straight specimens is the desired outcome; we want them to look as natural as possible. Damage from predators, so long as it does not kill the tree, adds to the naturalness of the final woodland.

"Many species naturally coppice after being browsed or barked and grow back multi-stemmed, often more resilient."

News and Star: Sally has bought more than 170 acres of land in the Lake DistrictSally has bought more than 170 acres of land in the Lake District (Image: SWNS)

Therefore Sally and her team of planters use an approach caused 'cluster planting', which she says has seen a significant amount of success so far.

This involves planting a high yield of trees (several hundred in a block), each spaced around 30 to 40 centimetres apart in roughly a three metre diameter block.

Sally said: "We always have a habitat survey done first, but the terrain and vegetation which already on the land dictates what trees will do well.

"We then plant a good mix of trees quite densely, and it is interesting because they protect each other but also compete with one another.

"You try and make it as natural-looking as possible, and it is mimicking what you see in nature.

"We have a good mix of trees together - hawthorn and blackthorn scrub species with oak, hazel, elm hornbeam, sweet chestnut.

"They collaborate and share nutrients and it is good way of getting woodland established quickly."

With the help of NW Forestry, they have planted a significant number of native trees on Low Fell - with plans to keep extending the count year upon year.

Sally, who has always been an enthusiastic environmentalist, has had experience buying land and transforming landscapes once bare into a space teeming with trees and wildlife.

She set up Chimney Sheep - a sustainable chimney draught excluders, made of Herdwick wool from a small workshop in Cumbria, back in 2011, which is a Community Interest Company that helps people save energy sustainably.

This has enabled Sally to further her sustainable work via planting trees.

Sally said: "Chimney Sheep has enabled me to generate profit to buy some land and plant trees - which is what I've always wanted to do.

"Twenty per cent of our profits go into buying the land and planting the trees, as long as we can keep going, we will."

Sally first started planting trees on a seven acre site six years ago and a 13 acre site in Bassenthwaite, and has since learnt about the most successful methods through experimenting with differing planting techniques and approaches - from direct seeding to establishing woodlands.

Sally had her eyes set upon Low Fell for around a year whilst it was on the market, and only bought it because no one else bided for the plot at auction.

She explained: "The land looked ridiculously big - 160 acres - which I thought was slightly overambitious, which is why I was just keeping an eye on it.

"But I went along to the auction and it didn't even meet the reserve price so we acquired it three years ago, and have been brilliantly lucky with grants.

"We have had a lot of help from various parties, with trees donated, and professionals planting trees every season - despite being out in every bit of weather Cumbria can throw at them!"

Sally hopes to keep planting trees across Cumbria, adding: "It's about giving back to nature and we are always looking out for the next project".