WHEN I heard that a new “northern forest” was to be planted across the north of England, I immediately thought about what this would mean for wildlife.

The proposal to plant 50m trees along roads, rivers and on urban wasteland will provide essential green corridors for wild creatures.

I’ve been so inspired by the concept I am going to hold an art exhibition of paintings of woodland wildlife at my gallery in Thixendale, between June 16 to July 8, to support it.

I’ll be showing paintings of wild creatures that live in or near woodland in Yorkshire. These include a collection of portraits I made of badgers at a sett I watch from a treetop hide here on the Yorkshire Wolds. There will also be pictures of red squirrels I’ve seen in the Yorkshire Dales and foxes from Dalby Forest.

Live cameras on owls and kestrel chicks in their nests will also be on show and I’ll be raising funds for the Woodland Trust at the event.

The government has pledged £5.7m to plant trees over an area that stretches from Hull to Liverpool.

Although it has been described as a forest, in reality it will be a series of large and small areas of woodland. Managed by the Woodland Trust, the scheme will involve new trees all along the M62 corridor.

These new tree canopies will provide critical shelter for wildlife to thrive. And in the end this will enhance all our lives. After all there’s nothing more magical about the momentary glimpse of a deer, fox or badger slipping through the dappled shade of a quiet wood.

If you stand stock-still you stand the chance of being rewarded with a closer look. It’s a thrill I don’t think I’ll ever be immune to, despite a lifetime of watching animals in the wild.

Of course the rarer the encounter, the more exhilarating it is to witness. I’ll never forget, for instance, the moment I spotted a goshawk in Cropton Forest. Goshawks are so difficult to spot they are known as the “phantoms of the forest”.

And this is in spite of the fact that they almost the same size as buzzards. Because they are essentially forest dwellers they tend to remain hidden among the trees. But you can sometimes see them soaring high over the North Yorkshire Moors.

And they are so fast it’s hard to get a closer look. In fact these predators hunt with such frightening speed I’ve heard them described as “sparrowhawks on steroids”. And if you’ve ever watched a sparrowhawk dive to snatch a bird from your garden, leaving nothing by a pile of feathers in its wake, the concept is quite terrifying.

Close to, goshawks have a fierce expression with bright red eyes and distinctive white eyebrows. I have only seen a wild goshawk from afar, either flashing through woodland rides or soaring high above moorland. But on this occasion I was waiting patiently in a hide for some badgers to come out and had just set up my cameras. Everything seemed peaceful in the forest when all of a sudden I heard a clatter of wings above me.

A wood pigeon flew over the hide and in a wild rush headed down a bank dodging through the trees, staying close to the ground as if its life depended on it.

Hot on its tail, like a tracer torpedo, was a female goshawk.

The pigeon had a good lead and I was sure it would escape, but the goshawk has such an explosive power that it closed the gap with frightening speed.

I watched as the pigeon spotted a gap in the canopy right above the badger sett and began to fly up towards the light in a desperate bid for freedom.

But the goshawk was on it and grabbed it with frightening force. It then disappeared off into the darkening forest with its catch in its talons. All that was left of the pigeon was a cloud of feathers drifting quietly to the ground.

The encounter left me breathless. While wildlife sightings like this are few and far between, it is possible to see goshawk soaring above forests here in Yorkshire in spring when they perform dramatic display flights to attract a mate.

If new plans announced this month by the government to plant a ‘northern forest’ come to light encounters like this might actually become more commonplace.

l Robert Fuller’s art exhibition, Wild Woods, runs from June 16 to to July 8 at his gallery in Thixendale. See his woodland wildlife paintings and photographs and look into owl nests via live nest cams. Guided family walks into nearby Allerthorpe and Millington and birdwatching safaris accompany the event.

For more information, go to robertefuller.com