Ten Thousand Trees for HBUF
A proposal put forward in January 2018 by Steve Thompson
In our original submission to Swindon Council and in our application to the Charity Commission to become a charity, we stated that the Urban Forest’s main purpose was to improve local people’s health and wellbeing by giving them a wooded area for their recreation and health. Another purpose was to improve the environment, as a wooded area would absorb noxious gases and exhaust particulates from traffic. It would also lower temperatures during heatwaves by up to 20 and retain water from heavy rainfall and overflow from the Hreod Burna to alleviate flooding further downstream. It was also our purpose to enhance wildlife and biodiversity.
With these objectives in mind, my plan is to plant a tree for every person in Gorse Hill and Pinehurst – in total about 10,000 trees (the figure of 10,000 being an approximate figure for the population of the immediate area).
This proposal would be very much in line with the Woodland Trust’s own ambitious plan to plant a tree for every person in the country. HBUF planting 10,000 trees would be a contribution to that aim. A recent Woodland Trust circular indicates that, if we planted the trees ourselves they would give us 60% of the cost and, if the trees were planted by professionals, 50%.
My plan would take into account the 2,000 we have already planted, which would leave 8,000 to plant. The young trees of about 2’ high (called ‘whips’) would cost, on average, £1 each. This would mean we would, over the next five or six years, plant 8,000 at a cost of £8,000. This is money that we would have to find. This would be over and above our annual running costs and the cost of other projects such as levelling the paths and the Celtic tree calendar. We would, therefore, need to get funding from local sources, charities, local businesses, crowd-funding and individuals.
Who could we involve?
We have been very lucky in the area of malicious damage to our trees. Only a few of our whips have been killed and only one of the bigger trees in the picnic area has been broken by youths (which I consider to be carelessness rather than vandalism). However, local youths do have an appetite for damage, for instance the bridge they totally wrecked. We should, therefore, aim to get students from the local academy and pupils from the local primary schools to volunteer to help with planting. This would give them a sense of ownership towards our woods which they would hopefully then not damage and might even protect. They may even become members of the charity in time.
What should we plant?
As with the areas already planted, we would leave glades, rides and pathways. This will allow a greater bio-diversity, please the eye with vistas, allow access, and create many forest edge habitats which are important to wildlife, especially birds and butterflies.
We would need to select our tree species carefully due to global warming and prevalent pests and diseases. Ash, horse chestnut and elm would not be appropriate due to disease which has wiped out, or is likely to wipe out, entire populations. Sweet chestnut, however, would be suitable, being a more southern species, as would tilia (lime) tree species; oak has a southern range and could thrive in warmer conditions. It is important, though, to get British stock to avoid importing pathogens.
Might we have to change our policy on pesticides?
We are not an organisation that has a lot of money and would need to seek grants. Any grants from the Forestry Commission or from the Woodland Trust would be dependent on us using weed-killer, notably Glyphosate. However, we have a policy of not using Glyphosate because of its negative effect on wild-life. While it has recently been cleared of causing cancer, it hasn’t been cleared of causing defects in frogs and other amphibians, and HBUF has a strong environmentally-friendly ethos. As for the cancer issue, as a gardener with over a 40-year career in horticulture, I have seen denials of pesticides being carcinogenic, only to have this proved otherwise ten or twenty years later. Since the Forestry Commission would insist we spray with Glyphosate if they gave us a grant, we would need to get full funding from local sources if we were not to modify our policy.
Could we come to a compromise?
Having seen pictures of the growth of tree plantations on the TCV (The Conservation Volunteers) booklets, it is evident that grass close to young trees severely restricts growth. This can be seen in our own plantation where trees surrounded by grass have put on only minimal growth over three years, while those growing through brambles tower above them.
A compromise would be to allow weed-killer around trees planted in grass areas that have been closely mown. These areas are, to all intents and purposes, sterile except for the monoculture of grass, and very little damage to small creatures would result from spraying in these small areas. If we chose the option of 50% funding + professional planting, we would get three years professional spraying as part of the price.
Where should we plant?
Anyone familiar with HBUF will agree with me that we have suitable space for only about 3,000 more whips at the most. This would be on the area called the Cricklade Field and on unplanted corners around HBUF. When we coppice the woods, some thickening would be needed and some trees could be replaced with more desirable species. So what about the other 5,000 whips?
We would have to seek to take over some adjacent land from Swindon Borough Council or the North Swindon Parish Council (whichever ends up responsible for the area), or get authority to plant on and maintain part of their land. The two grass areas between May Close and the cycle path would be a suitable area and would take up to 2,000 whips, and the area directly to the west of HBUF would take up to 3,000 whips.
The following lists are not exhaustive, but would constitute the main species we would consider for our planting.
Oak quercus robus
Field maple acer campestre
Aspen populus tremula
White poplar populus alba
Birch betula pendula
Alder alnus glutinosa
Beech fagus sylvatica
Hornbeam carpinus betula
Lime tilia cordata
Chestnut castanea sativa
Forest edge plants
Crab apple malus sylvestris
Blackthorn prunus spinosa
Hawthorn crataegus laevigata
Dog rose rosa canina
Wayfarer bush viburnum lanata
Cornus cornus sanguinia
Juniper juniper communis
Gorse ulex europaeus
Holly ilex aquifolium
Hazel corylus avellana
Beneficial attributes of the above
Oak famously has 350 species living on it; the others have less but, all being native or long-established, still have a significant amount.
Ten of the above have insect pollination, attracting honey bees, wild bees and other insects.
Five bear nuts, attracting squirrels, dormice, deer, jays and nuthatches.
At least three are hosts to aphids, attracting ants, ladybirds, hover flies, wasps, lacewings, tits and finches.
The fungus that live in trees, dead wood logs, leaf litter and hummus (in addition to the mycorrhizal fungus we would introduce) are innumerable.