We’ll soon be planting trees again
Now autumn is approaching, at ITF we’re looking forward to another tree planting season in the UK. We recently closed our Call for Proposals for this year’s UK Community Tree Planting Programme. We’re thrilled with the applications, including community orchards, biodiverse hedging projects, to community-owned woodlands. It’s going to be a very hard to select which projects to take forward.
Our aim, with this programme, is to help communities rethink their local green spaces and restore a sense of public ownership of their surrounding landscapes. With much of our land in the UK being held in private hands, this is no easy task. But, for those parcels of land that are still held in common ownership, we work with communities to reimagine them to serve varied local needs.
We believe that trees can provide multiple benefits on a local level, from providing a learning and recreation environment for school children, to providing locally grown fruits. One of our partners from this year, Oxford City Farm, made their own ‘food forest’ using techniques that provide a maximum amount of food and tree cover from a minimum amount of land.
This year we’ve received tree planting proposals from across Oxfordshire, Berkshire, and Gloucestershire – from some of the most treeless landscapes in Britain. Oxfordshire in particular has just a 7% woodland cover (compared to an average of 13% across England) and our planting here is part of a county-wide campaign to double tree cover by 2045 (see Oxtrees for more info).
Earlier this week, I went to visit one of last year’s planting sites at Rose Hill on the outskirts of Oxford. If the mention of Oxford conjures images of spires and gowns, then think again: the city is much more diverse than than one would assume. In fact, as of 2015 Rose Hill was in the top 10% most deprived neighbourhoods in the country. And yet, thanks to some forward-thinking planners in the 1930s, this area is blessed with a fantastic green open space right at its heart. And right at the heart of this space is where our partner, Rose Hill and Iffley Low Carbon, planted their mixed woodland in 2019. This project engaged many parts of this diverse community, including the fantastic Oxford Direct Services who provided the tools and trees, the local primary school getting involved in the planting and giving each tree a small hopeful blessing, and the wider community facing cold and frost mornings to get the final trees in the ground. And nor was this the end of the project.
Its the community that keeps trees healthy
Since the dry conditions this spring, teams of community volunteers have been regularly gathering at the site to water the trees. Trundling wheelbarrows of water and watering cans – anything that might help to keep these small and vulnerable new trees alive. Watering large numbers of tree is arduous work, and it’s only thanks to their community spirit and dedication that so many of these trees are still surviving today.
This project has become much more than I ever envisaged and it is a real example of what can be achieved by a dedicated community with a value their green spaces together.