May 22 2013 Latest news:
By CHRIS HILL, Rural affairs correspondent
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Norfolk and Suffolk have been identified as priority areas for new tree planting which a conservation charity says could improve water quality and boost public access to nature.
The Woodland Trust has carried out an extensive mapping exercise to plot where woods already exist against areas where planting new trees will bring the biggest benefits.
It has highlighted large swathes of East Anglia as places where trees could improve water quality and reduce flood risk, while another layer of data outlines where free public access to woodland is rated as low.
The trust is prioritising its resources in these areas, offering advice and funding to landowners and community groups wanting to create new native woodland.
In rural areas, the trust says trees can play a vital role in protecting water courses as they help intercept nutrients and sediments from the farming industry, before the run-off can contaminate streams and rivers.
Mike Ryder, who is site manager for the trust’s 26 land holdings in Norfolk and Suffolk, said: “The woodland in Norfolk is quite sparse. There are areas like the Holt-Cromer ridge which are quite significantly wooded, but the majority of Norfolk is below the national average.
“There are many reasons why landowners would want to plant woodland but one of the major things, in Norfolk especially, is the water quality. With it being such a heavily-farmed area there can be quite a high amount of run-off from the fields which can be anything from silt to nitrates and phosphates. A relatively small woodland buffer zone can have a lot of benefits and retain a lot of those nutrients in the soil.”
Farmers are also encouraged to plant trees to help protect their land from storm damage and water erosion, to shelter livestock and to provide a sustainable source of firewood, helping to cut heating bills.
Mr Ryder said the benefits of trees could also be felt in towns and cities.
“In an urban environment, even planting singular trees can have a benefit to the landscape,” he said. “There is lots of data about trees improving house prices but they also have a relaxing, cooling effect as they bring shade. Many towns and cities have areas of woodland which are a perfect place for recreation.”
The trust’s “woodland access standard” states that nobody should live more than 500m from an area of accessible woodland of at least two hectares, and that there should also be at least one area of accessible woodland of no less than 20 hectares within 4 km of people’s homes.
There are 12 sites across Norfolk where landowners have already committed to planting, including Catton Park in Old Catton, Norwich, where volunteers are due to plant 850 trees next spring to create a Jubilee Wood so local people can enjoy the wildlife.
The trust provides financial support through its MOREwoods programme, and can help people apply for grants of up to £4,800 per hectare through the Forestry Commission’s English Woodland Grant Scheme. Community groups can also apply for free tree packs.
-For advice on tree-planting, call the Woodland Trust on 08452 935 689, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit woodlandtrust.org.uk/planting.