Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting TANEWS to 80360, or email
Growing interest in Bradford trees project
Bradford is getting greener – and it has nothing to do with recycling.
Five years ago the percentage of woodland cover in the district stood at just 4.2 per cent, against a UK average of 12 per cent.
That shortfall is gradually being made up, thanks to the efforts of staff and volunteers at the Forest of Bradford. Since the project – part of Bradford Environmental Action Trust (BEAT) – began in 1996, tree cover has risen to 6.4 per cent, towards a target of eight per cent.
Last winter, planting soared by a sixth, thanks to the number of people who gave their time freely to be part of this ambitious initiative.
“Between November and the end of March, we managed to plant around 35,000 different trees and shrubs,” says project manager Ian Butterfield. “We normally plant around 30,000, so that was a great increase. It was due to the number of volunteers who came forward to help – we had a lot more people coming midweek, which really made a difference. We are very grateful to them all.”
He adds: “The average tree cover for the South Pennines and Yorkshire Dales combined is only two per cent, so we are doing really well. In two years’ time we will have planted half a million trees.”
In total, around 190 hectares (460 acres) of new native woodland – 445,000 trees – have been planted since mid-1996. Based on an average of 30,000 trees a year, the target should be reached in three years’ time.
Seven miles (11km) of hedgerow has also been planted. “The amount of hedgerow has really picked up over the past four years,” says Ian. “They are like little green corridors of hedging, forming links between small, isolated areas of woodland we have planted, and they also serve as a refuge for wildlife.
“We usually see birds nesting within two years of planting. And people whose homes are close to trees and hedges we have planted comment on how many more varieties of birds they now see.”
Volunteers are crucial to the project’s success, and people across the district continue to lend a hand. Every year between 500 and 600 adults and children help to plant.
This year, the main focus will be on riverside planting in the Aire Valley as part of a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust project. “We are working in partnership with the trust, and are speaking to landowners who may be interested in having woodland established on land close to the river,” says Ian. “Woodland alongside rivers not only looks attractive and provides habitats for wildlife, but helps to limit flooding.
“In these areas the knock-on effects financially to businesses and householders affected by flooding can be enormous, with risks to property and insurance premiums rocketing, so we are working on ways to reduce it.”
Trees specially suited to wet ground, including willow and alder, will be planted.
Elsewhere, around nine different broad-leaved native species have been planted, including oak, ash and silver birch.
In common with all charities, funding is tight at present. A further year’s funds are in place from Bradford Council’s environment commissioning fund. And this year the project’s Nurturing Natural Talents scheme to use conservation to help those with mental health problems received a £10,000 grant from the mental health charity Mind, on behalf of the Big Lottery Fund. Contracted work and donations also brings in funding.
This winter, planting will also take place on some of the largest sites the project has worked on in the district. Forest of Bradford is working with Bradford Council to plant thousands of trees at Manywells and Sugden End as part of a relandscaping project.
“We are still interested in working on urban spaces,” says Ian, and urges anyone who would like a tree planted to mark the Queen’s Jubilee to get in touch. “If they pay for the tree, we can come and plant it,” says Ian.
Newly-planted woodland is recorded, with more added on the map every year. “We have built up a good momentum and as long as the support that has existed for years goes on we will meet the target,” adds Ian.
•Forest of Bradford runs practical conservation volunteer days every week. Volunteers, who need no experience, are transported to sites by minibus and take part in tasks including tree-planting, dry stone walling, hedge-laying and charcoal production. To volunteer, contact Bradford Environmental Action Trust on (01274) 487270, visit beat.org.uk or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.