Trees for Climate is a national woodland creation programme, part of the Government’s £500m Nature for Climate Fund aiming to, at least, treble planting rates in England by the end of this Parliament (2024).
The Mersey Forest is one of 12 Community Forests across England delivering the programme, transforming landscapes and communities across Merseyside and Cheshire.
Launched in November 2020, the programme is significant in the Government's commitment to address climate change and carbon mitigation. Across Cheshire and Merseyside, nearly 44 hectares of new woodland has been created in the last year, in urban parks and green spaces and on private land and farmland.
In the Wirral, The Mersey Forest team works closely with Wirral Council to identify suitable land to plant trees, as part of the Council's Tree, Hedgerow and Woodland Strategy which aims to double Wirral's tree canopy over the next ten years by planting 210,000 trees.
One of the sites selected was Council-owned land along the Leasowe Loop, a parcel of land formerly used as a horse grazing site within a link road.
Just under a hectare of land was prepared and planted by Wirral Council. A mixture of coniferous, shrub and native softwood trees were planted using funding provided through the Trees for Climate programme.
The community have also been instrumental to the success of this project and over 80 volunteer days were organised over a five-month period by the Wallasey Tree Planting Group, ensuring the trees were protected, mulched and weeded. Training and support have been provided by The Mersey Forest Team for these sessions.
Besides the obvious benefits of improving air quality and reducing noise pollution, the trees will be a valuable carbon store and provide a haven for biodiversity – addressing Wirral’s Climate Emergency challenge.
The site has had many challenges with weeds around the saplings growing at a phenomenal rate during the warm and wet spring/summer. A team of volunteers has turned up most weekends to help tackle these with training support and tools provided by The Mersey Forest Team. The group intends to take the planting challenge to new sites in the coming years using trees they are growing at their nearby nursery site.
In total over 4,300 trees were planted on this site. When fully established, it is estimated that these will store an estimated 291 tonnes of carbon over 100 years.
Our advice would be to maximise collaboration between the local council, communities and organisations like The Mersey Forest where possible. Early engagement with the landowner ensures the right site is identified and selected. Obtaining advice from a Community Forest ensures the project is delivered appropriately. Actively involving communities in the delivery of the planting encourages a sense of place and ownership for those involved.
For our future Trees for Climate schemes in Wirral, we will be increasing our public consultation to ensure that more of our communities understand the purpose of the planting and have an opportunity to take part. We will also be delivering the planting without the use of plastics and application of herbicides to help address the climate and environmental emergency which has been declared in Wirral.