OVER the past two decades the Bradford district has become a whole lot greener.

Swathes of woodland, copses, small pockets of trees and patchworks of hedgerow have all established themselves across the district.

Both urban and rural areas have seen the benefit, from the approach to Forester Square railway station, to the hillsides bordering Canal Road, pocket of land along the Aire Valley and surrounding villages.

School grounds, farmland and business premises have also seen injections of green that have made a marked difference to the visual aspect.

This is all thanks to staff and volunteers from Forest of Bradford, whose hard work continues to transform the landscape as it moves towards its goal of planting one million trees.

“What is so rewarding is that people comment on what we have done,” says project manager Ian Butterfield. “There are areas where trees are a very significant feature such as in Bolton Woods, at Carr Lane and on numerous sites in Keighley.”

Part of Bradford Environmental Action Trust (BEAT), Forest of Bradford came into being in 1998 to increase woodland cover throughout the district and create a sustainable wooded landscape in both rural and urban areas.

The initiative was set up in partnership with local communities, businesses and other organisations. It has also been made possible thanks to the involvement of hundreds of volunteers.

Half way into the new planting season, it is hoped that it will be as successful as last year’s.

“Last winter was the busiest we have had since the Forest of Bradford began,” says Ian Butterfield. “From the end of October to the end of March this year we planted more than 60,000 trees taking the total across the district to around 675,000.

“I estimate that in a couple of years’ time it may reach 750,000.”

As the native deciduous trees mature, they also have to be managed. “Once they get to a certain age we have to thin and prune them to create the right space for them to grow,” adds Ian.

Many areas of planting have been linked. “We join up little copses, field corners, shrubs and hedging so that mammals and birds can make their way along green corridors and are not sitting in an isolated pocket,” says Ian.

After hedges are laid the next stage is hedgerow management and conservation.

The Forest of Bradford team, who are based in Kirkgate, Shipley, is keen to hear from local primary schools, who would like to have trees planted within their grounds.

“There is no cost - we have a grant in place to do this,” says Ian. “It also applies to schools which we have worked with in the past and who want further planting.”

They would also like to hear from landowners, who have a major part to play in offering sites for planting. “The bulk of the land we plant on is farmland, but they may own a patch of derelict land that would benefit from trees,” says Ian. “We try to keep it as close to cost-free as possible - trees, guards, planting and maintenance are cost-free.”

The group has been working with an organisation Trees for Cities and is hoping to plant an avenue of silver birches on a grassy embankment near Simes Street in central Bradford. “Trees for Cities provided funding and Bradford Council provided the site, as they have on other occasions,” says Ian.

The trees will be planted with help from volunteers of all ages, who, says Ian, are vital to the success of the project.

“It would not happen otherwise. They are keen and enthusiastic and put in so much effort. Last year 120 people planted 2000 trees in one hour in South Bradford.”

People volunteer in groups as well as individuals. “An Indian faith group Sant Nirankari Mission came to help - they were fantastic,” says Ian. Staff from local businesses, including Santander Lloyds Bank, Ibis and Barclays.

Planting days take place every fortnight until March, and each week two volunteer days are funded by Bradford Council.

The team’s reputation and growth in its business has led to them taking their expertise beyond the district’s boundaries. “Over the past five years we have worked on sites in Craven, Kirklees, Calderdale and Harrogate,” says Ian.

Their contract work helps to fund trees and transport, including a minibus. “We also get trees from the Woodland Trust, and the Forestry Commission provides grant aid for trees,” says Ian.

“We need to earn money for ourselves - we can’t rely on grants anymore,” he adds.

For more information contact Forest of Bradford ring 01274 487270 or visit beat.org.uk. Email: ian@beat.org.uk; see also Forest of Bradford Volunteers Facebook page.