A welcome boost for nature as thousands of trees to be planted this winter

A welcome boost for nature as thousands of trees to be planted this winter

More than 11,000 trees will be planted across the National Park this winter to help nature recovery and tackle climate change.

Thirty sites across Hampshire, West Sussex and East Sussex will be receiving new trees as part of the Trees for the Downs campaign, which is now entering its third year having gone from strength to strength.

The first batch of trees, seven oaks and a range of hazel and field maple whips, were planted earlier this week at the Goodwood Estate, near Chichester. A further 300 disease-resistant elms will be planted on the estate in January to help create a new wildlife corridor.

The Chair of the National Park Authority, Ian Phillips, joined the Lord-Lieutenant of West Sussex, Mrs Susan Pyper, and the Duchess of Richmond and Gordon for a tree planting ceremony as part of “The Queen’s Green Canopy” to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next year. They were ably assisted by children from The March Primary School on the cold, frosty morning as the team dug holes and carefully planted the saplings.

As well as Goodwood, 29 other sites across the region will see significant planting, including restoring trees that have been lost to Ash Dieback and Dutch Elm Disease. The trees will be a mixture of disease-resistant elm trees and native species, such as oak and black poplar. Sites include schools, farms, recreation grounds and historic parks.

The supply of new trees has only been made possible thanks to the tremendous public response to the Trees for the Downs campaign, which launched at the end of 2019.

So far, almost £200,000 has been raised by the South Downs National Park Trust, the official independent charity for the National Park, which has set its sights on raising £260,000 to be able to plant 100,000 trees in total.

More than 8,000 trees were planted across the South Downs last winter and this new batch will bring much-needed new habitat for wildlife, help to restore soils and give amenity value to local communities.

The Trust is working with the National Park Authority’s woodlands team to deliver the tree planting project.

Ian Phillips, Chair of the South Downs National Park Authority, said: “The South Downs National Park is, somewhat surprisingly, the most wooded of all of England’s National Parks and we recognise the important benefits that trees bring to the landscape, nature, the economy and people.

“We want to extend and promote the role of trees in our National Park through sensitive and practical planting and good management – in town and country. I would therefore like to thank all those organisations and individuals who have contributed to the South Downs Trust’s Trees for the Downs campaign.

“This aims to plant 100,000 new trees in the South Downs over five years as an investment in a more sustainable future and we are well on the way to achieving this.”

Mrs Susan Pyper, HM Lord-Lieutenant of West Sussex, said: “This is just the beginning of an ambitious and impressive tree planting programme across the National Park and, as both Lord-Lieutenant of West Sussex and President of the South Downs National Park Trust, I am delighted to be joined by the Duchess of Richmond here at Goodwood. The ‘Queen’s Green Canopy’ initiative is a perfect way to celebrate the Queen’s 70 years as our sovereign and I encourage everyone who can to play even a tiny part in planting a tree for the jubilee.”

Steve Jackson, Deputy Headteacher for The March CE Primary School, said: “The children have been learning about the importance of looking after our environment and reducing our carbon footprint, so it was great to get involved in this project and help plant some hazel and oak trees. Despite close to freezing temperatures, we wrapped up warm and learnt how to plant the trees with help from the forestry team at Goodwood Estate. Everyone was amazed at how quickly over 100 trees could be planted with the help of a class of busy children!”

Among the sites receiving a supply of trees in the new year will be Parham Park Estate, West Sussex, which is planting an elm avenue to commemorate its 100th anniversary. The National Park will also be providing black poplar and elms to Churcher’s College, in Petersfield, as the school marks its 300th anniversary.

As well as scores of public donations, the Trees for the Downs campaign has received backing from a range of regional organisations and businesses, including Aspinal of London, Boltini Trust, Chalk Cliff Trust, the Cinven Foundation, Friends of the South Downs, Jude’s, Nyetimber, South East Water and the Swire Charitable Trust. The disease-resistant elms have been pioneered by Hillier.

The Trust hopes to plant further trees in phases over the next three years, until 2025, and applications are open for future round of planting. Those interested can email grants@southdowns.gov.uk  for more details.

Applications are welcome from landowners, farmers, parish and town councils, schools and community groups, including those within the National Park and those near the National Park boundary.

To donate to Trees for the Downs, see www.southdownstrust.org.uk/trees-for-the-downs/