In the next few weeks, Norfolk’s woodlands and forests will become a glorious patchwork of colour as the leaves turn and fall.

Trees are an essential part of our ecosystem – they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into oxygen and provide habitats for wildlife. And they will play an important role as we face the challenge of climate change in the coming decades.

Which is why, in 2019, Norfolk County Council agreed an ambitious scheme to plant a million trees over five years.

Norwich Evening News: Autumn colours at FrittonAutumn colours at Fritton (Image: Archant)

In the 2021/22 planting season, nearly 45,000 trees were planted in the county.

And the scheme is picking up pace with the Jubilee Trees for Norfolk programme.

Aimed at creating a lasting tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, half-price trees are on offer, with the hope that 40,000 trees will be planted in the county’s gardens and green spaces to make it a more vibrant place for wildlife and people.

Charlotte Watts, the council’s lead project manager for green spaces, is leading the project.

Norwich Evening News: It is hoped that 40,000 trees will be planted in Norfolk in memory of Queen Elizabeth IIIt is hoped that 40,000 trees will be planted in Norfolk in memory of Queen Elizabeth II (Image: PA Archive/PA Images)

“We think that planting trees is a really lovely way to now commemorate the work and life of Queen Elizabeth,” says Charlotte.

“It is something that we thought was a way of potentially involving a wider reach of people, so it’s open to everybody who wants to take part,” she explains.

There are packs designed for different size plots, ranging from small trees for gardens and smaller spaces, to hedgerow packs, wildlife packs and taller trees. Orchard packs contain a carefully selected mix of heritage trees.

Trees come in a minimum pack size of 10 up to 125 trees, but most of the packs – apart from orchard packs - can be split.

So if, for example you only wanted a few for your garden you could share them with your neighbours.

And they’ve aimed to make the scheme as accessible as possible.

“Anyone can apply for these,” says Emma Cross, project officer for Defra’s Trees Outside Woodlands Project. “In the past it’s often been community groups or has to be public land. This is quite unusual in that you can just apply for some for your back garden, just for your personal land.”

The small tree packs contain varieties which grow to between five and 15 metres in height.

“That’s things like rowan, hazel, crab apple, hawthorn and whitebeam,” says Emma.

Norwich Evening News: Norfolk County Council is encouraging residents to plant trees in memory of The QueenNorfolk County Council is encouraging residents to plant trees in memory of The Queen (Image: Norfolk County Council)

The taller tree pack contains English oak, hornbeam, wild service tree, common beech and common alder, which could grow up to 40 metres in height, while the hedgerow pack contains hawthorn, dogwood, hazel, crab apple and guelder rose.

Orchard packs contain a hazelnut tree, at least one apple tree and then a mix chosen from pear, plum, medlar, cherry, greengage and quince.

“We’ve also got a wildlife pack, which contains things that are particularly good for wildlife and is a bit of a mix of sizes, so we’ve got for example English oak in there, but also smaller things like crab apple and spindle, and we’ve also got cherry plum in there and hazel,” says Emma.

To ensure that the right trees are planted in the right place, application is via an online form.

“As an example, we wouldn’t necessarily want them to be planted on a heathland or where there’s going to be peat bogs or in a Site of Specific Scientific Interest or right on the coast where it’s not appropriate or will obstruct a road or a public right of way,” says Charlotte, adding that the project team is happy to provide guidance and advice.

Norwich Evening News: Autumn at FairhavenAutumn at Fairhaven (Image: Archant)

As tree officer Tom Russell-Grant explains, trees play a vital role in our ecosystem – especially as we face the challenge of climate change.

“The tree packs have plenty of flowering trees for pollinator sources for insects early in the year and that will then feed into the food chain for lots of other mammals, bats in particular,” he says.

“Then, going through the growing season, these trees provide shade and shelter for nesting birds and then into the autumn you’ve got different berries and fruits and seeds and nuts being produced which sustains wildlife over the winter.

“There’s a really interesting conversation to have around climate change and what species we should be looking to plant for the future and that’s something we’ve certainly got an eye open to,” he continues.

"Our Jubilee Tree offer is for native or naturalised trees which will create woodlands, hedges and copses that will help regulate the local environment.

Norwich Evening News: Bagged up saplingsBagged up saplings (Image: Norfolk County Council)

“You may have noticed in the summertime when it was really, really hot, walking into a lovely cool woodland was a great thing. So even if our native tree species aren’t in their own right specifically designed to a hotter climate in 50 years’ time, they’re going to do a great job in manipulating the local microclimates so that other species can thrive as well.”

The trees that the council is supplying have been sourced and grown in the UK and have met the highest levels of biosecurity checks.

Collection dates have been carefully planned so that people can receive their trees in the planting season.

“It’s important that people plant at the right time of year, which is broadly speaking when the trees are dormant,” says Tom.

“Everyone knows that the seasons are shifting around a little bit at the minute and they’re not quite so defined as they used to be, so it’s even more important that we hit that spot when the trees are going to have the most success of surviving, because they go through quite a tough process. They get dug out of the ground and transported and might get stored before being planted.”

Trees are being supplied as what’s called bare root trees and need to be back in the ground as soon as possible, so it’s important that people plan their planting around the collection dates.

Prior to planting, trees should be kept in their bags in a cool, frost-free place out of direct sunlight. And they should be planted in a weed free area.

Norwich Evening News: Trees are a vital part of our natural worldTrees are a vital part of our natural world (Image: David Kirkham, Norfolk Trails)

As Tom explains, to help the trees to thrive, mulching is an important step.

“That’s just a layer of organic matter that will suppress any weeds that want to come up which would be in competition with the trees or hedges as they establish. The mulch will also lock in moisture, and stop it evaporating when the hot weather comes in the summer.

“It also does a really important job of creating a healthy soil structure and ecosystem that is more like a mature woodland where trees naturally grow best.”

Young trees can be attractive to mammals looking for food – rabbits in particular – so the fruit tree packs come supplied with guards to protect them and they are available to buy separately for the other packs.

Norwich Evening News: An autumnal Bacton WoodsAn autumnal Bacton Woods (Image: Archant)

Taking these steps early on it a tree’s life will give them the best start possible and the chance to be enjoyed by generations to come.

“Crucially this is all about the long-term,” says Tom.

“Some of these trees will develop, get big, get mature, they’ll get over mature, and at the end of their life they will die, decay and fall down and that will provide another rich habitat for invertebrates in particular, insects.

“So it’s really looking at trying to establish woodlands and hedges and small copses that are going to provide a real benefit to nature and the landscape.”

Councillor Eric Vardy, cabinet member for environment and waste, said:

“Getting involved with Jubilee Trees for Norfolk and supporting the Queen’s Green Canopy initiative will be a lasting legacy across the county. It will not only help create new habitats for wildlife in Norfolk but also provide a fantastic opportunity for residents and community groups to do something positive for their county.

"It is also a key part of Norfolk County Council’s response to tackling the challenges of climate change and will help towards our net zero carbon goals as part of our environmental policy.”

The Jubilee Trees for Norfolk scheme is being funded by Norfolk County Council and the government through the Trees Outside Woodland project.

To find out more about the Jubilee Trees For Norfolk project and to apply visit Tree packs will be ready for collection from sites in Norwich, Acle, Long Stratton, Watton, Fakenham and King’s Lynn during the planting season between December 2022 and February 2023.

Branching out

Five mini forests have been planted in Norfolk as part of a trial scheme to help boost biodiversity in urban and suburban areas.

Set up as part of the Trees Outside Woodland Project and led by Defra, the project is looking into the Miyawaki method of tree planting, which can quickly establish an urban forest ecosystem.

“It’s a method which was developed by Dr Akira Miyawaki from Japan, specifically looking at areas where tsunamis had come through and the soil wasn’t very good any more, and they were looking to re-establish trees,” explains Emma.

“And we’re trying to see if it’s worthwhile doing here in the UK. So, there’s five around Norfolk and they vary between 200 and 400 square metres.”

Norfolk County Council has been working with North Norfolk District Council and parish councils to establish the forests in areas including North Walsham, Sheringham and Fakenham. Plots have also been set up in Kent, West Sussex and Cornwall.

With the Miyawaki technique, soil preparation is key, so before the trees are planted the soil is well aerated, with the likes of seaweed or biochar added to improve it.

Trees are planted densely – three trees per square metre, compared to one tree per square metre for the trees in a control group planted alongside.

They’ve also mulched the entire planting area, rather than just round each individual tree as in the control group

“The idea is that the trees help each other establish and the soil preparation helps as well,” says Emma.

The trees were planted earlier this year and while it’s early days, they’re already seeing promising results.

“When we’ve been visiting sites, it’s looks like most of the control side are really struggling – we have had a really extreme summer, but they’re really not happy, whereas on the Miyawaki side, mainly they’re really thriving,” says Emma.

An apple a day...

Norwich Evening News: Apple Day is returning to Gressenhall Farm and WorkhouseApple Day is returning to Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse (Image: Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse)

Members of the Jubilee Trees For Norfolk project will be at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum of Rural Life’s annual Apple Day on Sunday, October 16.

As well as celebrating all things apples, there will be a chance to find out more about the project and see a community tree nursery which Emma has set up to help the county’s local genetic tree stock to thrive.

“I think children in particular find it quite fascinating. There’s something quite empowering about collecting your own seed and planting your own tree,” says Tom.

To find out more about what’s planned for Apple Day visit